Middle East pushes up global rate of executions (VIDEO)


This November 30, 2009 photo shows the witness room facing the execution chamber of the 'death house' at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio.


Caroline Groussain

Headlining the report "Alarming levels of executions in the few countries that kill," Amnesty International on Tuesday published a study that indicated the death penalty is still alive and well in several countries around the world, the Associated Press reported.

The United States, which is one of the few Western countries still widely practicing the death penalty, was fifth in the world. The human rights group said at least 676 were executed across the world in 2011, and 18,750 were awaiting death sentences. "Methods of execution in 2011 included beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting," Amnesty wrote; there were no reported stonings.

The report is available in PDF format here.

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By far, China executes the highest number of prisoners but does not disclose how many. Amnesty stopped counting and estimating the number so that it would not "underestimate" the total, the AP said. The rights group also said it suspects Iran executes many more than it reports.

Due to the violence connected to the Arab Spring, Amnesty said, it was impossible to count the number killed in extrajudicial executions. 

Iran upped its numbers of executed inmates to harsher drug sentencing laws, and neighboring Iraq executed scores of mostly Sunni former militiamen. Iran hanged some drug offenders from construction cranes.

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The Associated Press listed several offences which can result in the death penalty worldwide, including "'treason against God' in Iran, blasphemy in Pakistan, 'sorcery' in Saudi Arabia, trafficking in human bones in the Republic of Congo, and economic crimes in China including selling fake drugs or tainted foods or soliciting deceptive organ transplantation."

Below is a video created by Amnesty highlighting the new report.