Report: Global Executions Doubled in 2008, U.S. #4 in State Killing

A new report by Amnesty International released Tuesday reveals good news and bad news on the death penalty.

The good news: the world is moving away from capital punishment. "The majority of countries now refrain from using the death penalty," Amnesty reports.

"Europe and Central Asia is now virtually a death penalty free zone following the abolition of the death penalty in Uzbekistan for all crimes. There is just one country left -- Belarus -- that still carries out executions."

The bad news? From 2007 to 2008, the number of executions carried out by death penalty countries doubled.

Worldwide in 2007, 1,252 people were executed. Last year, "at least 2,390 people were known to have been executed in 25 countries," according to the study, and "at least 8,864 people were sentenced to death in 52 countries around the world."

As usual, the United States received the dubious distinction of being the only county left in the Americas that "regularly executes." Last year, the U.S. carried out 37 executions, with Texas responsible for 18. This number -- the lowest since 1994 -- would have almost certainly been dramatically higher were it not for a halt on executions stemming from controversy over lethal injection -- a moratorium that lasted from September 2007 until May of 2008.

But one country killed more prisoners than any other nation combined -- and that prize goes to China. "With at least 1,718, China was responsible for 72 percent of all executions in 2008," the New York Times reports. "After China were Iran (346), Saudi Arabia (102), the United States (37) and Pakistan (36)."

U.S. ally Saudi Arabia was singled out as showing an increase in executions, carrying out an average of two per week. (Prisoners are behaded, usually in public.) According to Amnesty, "almost half of those executed were foreign nationals from poor and developing countries."


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