Amnesty International capital punishment report: bad news and good news

Among the invaluable activities of Amnesty International is the compilation of an annual report on capital punishment. The 2011 edition was published today and it makes for interesting reading.

The bad news: there was a more than 10 percent increase in the number of judicial killings worldwide. In 2011, 676 executions took place as opposed to 527 in 2010.

The good news: only 10 percent of the world's countries carried out executions. That number has been steadily dropping over the last decade.

A caveat on these numbers: Amnesty does not count China as reliable figures are impossible to obtain from the People's Republic. The report says thousands have been executed there.

The rise in executions is primarily down to activities in three Middle Eastern countries. Amnesty points out, "There were at least 360 judicial killings in Iran (up from 252+ in 2010), at least 82 in Saudi Arabia (up from 27+), and at least 68 in Iraq (up from 1+)."

No figures were available from Syria but it is a good bet that they match the figures from Iran.

African nations on the other hand made significant progress away from judicial killing, according to the report. "Benin adopted legislation to ratify the key United Nations treaty aimed at abolishing the death penalty; Sierra Leone declared, and Nigeria confirmed, official moratoriums on executions; and the Constitutional Review Commission in Ghana recommended the abolition of the death penalty."

As for the U.S., it maintained its exceptionalism by being the only member of the G-8 to publicly execute people. 43 were put to death by the state (s) in 2011.