Death sentences becoming rarer around the world

Global efforts to abolish the death penalty are making strong headway with just 1 in 10 countries conducting executions last year, according to Amnesty International

Two-thirds of countries have now abandoned capital punishment.

“In many parts of the world, executions are becoming a thing of the past,” said Amnesty International’s secretary general, Salil Shetty, in a statement.

Amnesty International recorded 682 executions in 2012 – about the same as in 2011, although that figure excludes China and Syria, where secrecy and conflict hindered data collection. This record also omits hundreds of secret executions likely carried out by Iran.

Activists estimate that China conducted over 3,000 executions in 2012 – more than the rest of the world combined. However, this is vast progress compared to the 15,000 a year China conducted during the 1990s, constituting “the most significant positive development in the human rights situation in China in recent decades,” activist John Kamm told The Economist.

The US remains one of the world’s top five executioners, along with China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. US courts ordered 80 executions in 2012, about a third of the number in 2000, and killed 43 prisoners, down from 98 in 1999.