Executions jumped by a third in Iran and quadrupled in Saudi Arabia last
year, causing the total number of executions around the world to rise yet again
in 2007, a human rights group reported, adding that China remained far in front
as the world's top executioner.
The Rome-based Hands Off Cain, which campaigns to stop the death penalty,
said that while countries were increasingly renouncing the death penalty, more
people were put to death in 2007 than in either of the previous two years.
In all, the number of executions increased last year to at least 5,851,
compared with 5,635 in 2006 and 5,494 in 2005, the group said in its annual
The gradual trend of abolishing capital punishment continued, with 49
countries retaining the death penalty, compared with 51 in 2006 and 54 in 2005.
Only 26 countries that have capital punishment on their books actually used it
in 2007, down from 28 in 2006, the report said.
China alone accounted for at least 5,000 executions, the rights group
estimated, based on reports by the media and other human rights groups. The
exact number of executions in China remains a state secret. This was the same
estimate the group gave for China last year.
However, Hands Off Cain said there were indications of a reduction in the
number of death sentences in China.
Citing reports by magistrates, researchers and rights groups, the group said
death sentences issued by Chinese courts may have dropped by up to 30% in 2007.
China's own Supreme People's Court has said it rejected 15 percent of all death
sentences reviewed in the first half of this year.
In Iran, at least 355 people were put to death last year, compared with 215
in 2006, the group said, adding that the figure may be even higher because
Tehran does not publish official statistics.
Saudi Arabia carried out 166 executions, compared with 39 a year earlier, the
report said. Hands Off Cain said both Iran and Saudi Arabia executed minors, in
violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Pakistan also
continued an upward trend, executing at least 134 people.
The US remained the only country in the Americas that carried out death
sentences in 2007 - putting 42 people to death, 11 less than in 2006 and the
lowest number in 13 years.