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Video by Aurore Cloe DUPUIS

Latest update : 2009-03-24

Almost 2,400 people were executed last year, human rights group Amnesty International said in its annual report on the death penalty. Despite the figures, Amnesty saw positive signs of a "steady progress towards complete abolition".

AFP - Almost 2,400 people were executed last year, including more than 1,700 in China alone, but the world moved closer towards abolishing the death penalty, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

A total of 2,390 people were put to death in 25 countries in 2008 and five states -- China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States -- accounted for 93 percent of the executions, the group said in an annual report.

But Amnesty saw positive signs in the United Nations' adoption of a second resolution calling for a moratorium on abolishing the death penalty, saying it "consolidates three decades of steady progress towards complete abolition".

The rights group noted that the UN General Assembly's vote in December prompted the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to urge African states that retain the death penalty to move towards scrapping it.

Amnesty also noted that only 25 of the 59 countries that retain the death penalty actually carried out executions last year, although at least 8,864 people were sentenced to death.

This "indicates that there is increasing consolidation of majority international consensus that the death penalty cannot be reconciled with respect for human rights," it said.

However, Amnesty said that despite the progress, "tough challenges remain", especially in Asia, which carried out more executions than the rest of the world put together.

China alone executed at least 1,718 people, with Iran second with 346, followed by Saudi Arabia (at least 102) and the United States (37).

While the United States still carries out executions "consistently", the number of people put to death there last year was the lowest since 1995.

"There is increasing evidence that the USA itself is slowly turning away from the death penalty," Amnesty said.

It also expressed particular concern about Iran, saying the Islamic republic "continued to execute prisoners who were under 18 at the time of the alleged offence, in flagrant violation of international law".

Belarus meanwhile is the only country in Europe still to carry out the death sentence, executing four people last year.


Date created : 2009-03-24