The US was the only western country to have carried out judicial executions last year and the 43 executions in the country ranked it fifth in the world in capital punishment, behind China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Amnesty International said Monday.

As an independent country, Texas would have ranked 7th, between North Korea and Somalia, with its 13 executions in 2011, Amnesty said, but added that there are unmistakable signs of substantially reduced enthusiasm for the death penalty in the US.

Though global execution rates have dropped, the tumultuous Middle East saw an increase in the number of executions.

In US, executions were down slightly (43 compared to 46 in 2010), and death sentences were way down (78 compared to 104 in 2010 and 158 on 2001), the survey said. In March, Illinois become the 16th state to abolish the death penalty, and in November, Oregon's Governor declared a moratorium on executions, adding to the positive trend in the US.

At least 20 countries were known to have carried out executions last year, according to Amnesty findings, which is a reduction from 2010, when 23 countries were reported to have implemented death sentences. The new figure also shows a steep decline against the figure recorded a decade ago, when 31 countries were known to have carried out executions.

Executions reported last year were from Afghanistan (2), Bangladesh (5+), Belarus (2), China (+), Egypt (1+), Iran (360+), Iraq (68+), Malaysia (+), North Korea (30+), Palestinine (3 in Gaza), Saudi Arabia (82+), Somalia (10), South Sudan (5), Sudan (7+), Syria (+), Taiwan (5), UAE (1), US (43), Viet Nam (5+), Yemen (41+).  (+ preceded by a number indicates the possibility of the figures being higher than reported. + without any figure indicates that there were executions but Amnesty was not able to obtain the figures.+ is counted as 2 for calculating regional and global totals).

At least 1,923 people were known to have been sentenced to death in 63 countries in 2011. According to Amnesty this figure represents a decrease from the 2010 figure of at least 2,024 death sentences worldwide. A minimum of 18,750 people were under sentence of death worldwide at the end of 2011.

The methods used for executions included beheading (Saudi Arabia), hanging (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, North Korea, Palestinian Authority (Gaza), South Sudan, Sudan), lethal injection (China, Taiwan, US), and shooting (Belarus, China, North Korea, Palestinian Authority (Gaza), Somalia, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam, Yemen).

Though there were no reports of judicial executions being carried out by stoning, public executions were known to have been carried out in Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

In majority of countries the death penalty was imposed after proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards, often based on confessions that were allegedly extracted through torture or other duress, the report stated.

Adultery and sodomy (Iran), religious offences such as apostasy (Iran) and blasphemy (Pakistan), sorcery (Saudi Arabia), the trafficking of human bones (Republic of Congo) and economic crimes (China), rape (Saudi Arabia) and forms of aggravated robbery (Kenya, Zambia), were also punished with death sentences last year.

Different forms of treason, acts against national security and other crimes against the state (such as moharebeh - enmity against God - in Iran), irrespective of whether they led to a loss of life, were punished with death sentences (Gambia, Kuwait, Lebanon, North Korea, Palestinian Authority and Somalia). In North Korea death sentences are often imposed even though the alleged crime is not subject to a death sentence under domestic law, the survey found.

According to the findings, positive steps towards restricting the use of the death penalty were recorded in several countries, including the reduction of the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty in China, Gambia and Taiwan.

Commutations or pardons of death sentences were recorded in 33 countries: Algeria,Bahrain, Barbados, Cameroon, China, Ethiopia, Gambia, India, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco/Western Sahara, Myanmar, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Korea, South Sudan, Sudan, Thailand, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, USA, Viet Nam, Yemen and Zambia.

Exonerations were recorded in 12 countries: Barbados, Botswana, China, India, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan13, UAE, US, Yemen and Zambia.

Highlights And Trends

  • US was the only G8 nation to kill its prisoners
  • China, Saudi Arabia and the US were the G20 nations to carry out executions
  • While 140 countries considered abolishing death penalty only 20 countries were known to have put prisoners to death.
  • Only the Middle East recorded an increase in the number of executions.
  • The US and Belarus were the only two of the 56 Member States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to have carried out executions in 2011.
  • Four of the 54 Member States of the African Union were known to have carried out judicial executions in 2011: Egypt, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. Thirty eight member states are abolitionist in law or practice.
  • Two of the 54 member states of the Commonwealth were known to have carried out executions in 2011: Bangladesh and Malaysia.
  • Nine of 22 member states of the League of Arab Nations carried out executions in 2011: Egypt, Iraq, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
  • Two of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations were believed to have carried out executions in 2011: Malaysia and Viet Nam.
  • 175 of the 193 member states of the United Nations were execution-free in 2011.