The number of countries using capital punishment has fallen by a third in the past decade, according to Amnesty International.
In its 74-page report, Death sentences and executions in 2011, Amnesty said 20 countries carried out executions in 2011, down from 23 in 2010.
Only 10 per cent of the world’s countries carried out executions last year. However, the countries that did carry out executions did so at an alarming rate.
The report also noted that at least 676 executions were known to have been carried out worldwide in 2011, compared to 527 the previous year — the result of a steep rise in recorded executions in three Middle Eastern countries. The figures do not include the thousands of prisoners thought to have been executed in China.
There were at least 360 judicial killings in Iran, an increase on 252+ in 2010; at least 82 in Saudi Arabia, up from 27; and at least 68 in Iraq, up from one. Amnesty said it had received credible reports that a large number of unacknowledged executions took place in Iran (almost doubling the official figure).
The report shows that most countries either hanged or shot their condemned prisoners, but there were also beheadings in Saudi Arabia and lethal injections in China, Taiwan and the US.
In violation of international law, Iran executed at least three juvenile offenders — those convicted of committing crimes when they were aged under 18 — with a further four unconfirmed executions of juvenile offenders reported in Iran, and one in Saudi Arabia.