AT least 1,634 people were executed in 2015 – a sharp increase of 50 percent from 2014 figures, reported Amnesty International.
In their annual global review of death sentences and executions, the human rights group said that last year’s “alarming” total was the highest number of executions recorded since 1989.
Amnesty International’s secretary general Salil Shetty said in a press release, “The rise in executions last year is profoundly disturbing.”
“Not for the last 25 years have so many people been put to death by states around the world.”
— Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International
The report found that the most executions took place in China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
While the report names China as the world’s top executioner, it states that the true extent of the country’s use of the death penalty was uncertain, as exact figures are considered a state secret. The same goes for North Korea.
Therefore, the report’s total of 1,634 executions carried out excludes those conducted in China, which are believed to number in the thousands.
Of the reported figures, almost 90 percent of all executions took place in just three countries: Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.
The report said: “In the Asia-Pacific region, at least 367 executions were carried out in 12 countries – a huge increase on the 32 executions in nine countries recorded in 2014, almost exclusively due to the rise in Pakistan.”
Amnesty International accused authoritarian countries such as China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia of abusing the death penalty by sentencing people to death for crimes that do not meet the international legal standards of serious offenses that warranted the use of the death penalty under international law.
Some of the crimes which these countries found worthy of meting out the death penalty were drug trafficking, corruption, and religious offenses such as adultery and blasphemy.
The most common methods of execution practiced were beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.
The report said that the majority of the world’s countries are now abolitionist (those which abolished the death penalty) after four more countries – Fiji, Madagascar, Republic of Congo and Suriname – decided to eradicate the death penalty from their laws in 2015.
Mongolia is also set to become an abolitionist state, as it passed a new criminal code abolishing the death penalty, which will take effect later this year.