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The latest annual report from Amnesty International says that the number of judicial executions worldwide has gone way up, even as the number of countries that still perform them is going down. According to the study, there were least 676 known executions around the globe in 2011, an increase of more than 150 deaths over the year before. The increase is mostly attributed to stiffer penalties for drug crimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia, which are two of the biggest practitioners of capital punishment. More than half of those death sentences (360) were carried out in Iran.

However, those numbers do not include the biggest user of the death penalty: China. The number of executions there is not made  public, but Amnesty International believes the total is in the thousands, meaning China puts more people to death than all other countries combined.

The one positive number to come out of the report is that only 20 countries out of 178 used the death penalty last year, a drop from 23 in 2010 and 31 just ten years ago. The United States — the only country in the Americas and the only country in the G8 that still executes its prisoners — put 43 people to death in 2011.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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