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Number of Executions Declines Worldwide

By last year, 86 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes, Amnesty International says. Mexico and Liberia are the latest to ban it.

April 21, 2006|From the Associated Press

LONDON — Executions around the world fell by more than 1,500 last year, as a growing number of nations continued to turn against the death penalty, Amnesty International said Thursday.

There were 2,148 known executions in 22 countries last year, down from 3,797 in 2004, said the London-based group, which opposes the death penalty in all cases.

"There is a global tide against the death penalty which has left us with just the hardened countries still using it," said Amnesty researcher Piers Bannister, who helped compile the organization's latest report on the subject.

"Governments have listened to the arguments of the abolitionists, and there is also an acknowledgment that it is an abuse of human rights," Bannister said.

A total of 5,186 people were sentenced to death in 53 countries in 2005, bringing the number of people awaiting execution to about 20,000, Amnesty said.

In 1977, only 16 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes, the report said. By 2005, that figure had risen to 86. In practice, 122 countries have abandoned executions.

Mexico and Liberia were the latest countries to abolish capital punishment, Amnesty said. Eleven other countries have abolished the death penalty for all but the most exceptional offenses, including war crimes.

Seventy-four countries retain the death penalty. Of those, 25 have not carried out an execution in more than a decade, the report said.

About 80% of executions last year were in China, the report said. Nearly 70 crimes carry the death penalty in that country, including nonviolent offenses such as tax fraud and embezzlement, the report said.

About 11% of executions were in Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Iran put 94 people to death, Saudi Arabia 86 and the United States 60, the report said.

The rights group said Iran, the only country known to have executed juvenile offenders last year, killed at least eight people for crimes committed while they were children, including two who were younger than 18 when executed.

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