Iraq and Iran trigger global spike in executions

A noose
Image caption Executions have been declining worldwide in recent years - but not in 2013

A sharp rise in the number of people put to death in Iraq and Iran caused a global spike in executions in 2013, Amnesty International says.

The human rights group annual review of the death penalty found a jump of almost 15% compared with 2012.

China is thought to execute the most people, although the exact number of executions there is kept secret.

Elsewhere, at least 778 executions are known to have been carried out in 2013, compared with 682 in 2012.

At least 369 people were killed in Iran while Iraq saw a stark rise in its executions, with 169 being killed.

"The virtual killing sprees we saw in countries like Iran and Iraq were shameful," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's secretary general.

"Only a small number of countries carried out the vast majority of these senseless state-sponsored killings. They can't undo the overall progress already made towards abolition."

Executions were carried out in 22 countries in 2013 with Indonesia, Kuwait, Nigeria and Vietnam all resuming use of the death penalty.

'A thing of the past'

There has, however, been a steady decline in the number of countries performing executions over the past 20 years and Amnesty said there was progress in all regions last year.

Many countries who executed in 2012 did not implement any death sentences last year, including Gambia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.

Belarus also refrained from executions, meaning Europe and Central Asia were execution-free for the first time since 2009.

"The long-term trend is clear - the death penalty is becoming a thing of the past," Mr Shetty said.

Amnesty, a UK-based group, said methods of executions in 2013 included beheading, electrocution, firing squad, hanging and lethal injection.

Public executions took place in Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

People faced the death penalty for a range of non-lethal crimes including robbery, drug-related and economic offences, as well as acts such as "adultery" or "blasphemy".

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