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Executions worldwide jumped last year to the highest number since 2015, Amnesty report says

This photo provided by the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows the state's death chamber in Columbia, S.C. (AP file photo) This photo provided by the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows the state's death chamber in Columbia, S.C. (AP file photo)
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LONDON -

The number of executions recorded worldwide last year jumped to the highest level since 2015, with a sharp rise in Iran and across the Middle East, Amnesty International said in a report released Wednesday.

The human rights group said it recorded a total of 1,153 executions in 2023, a 30 per cent increase from 2022. Amnesty said the figure does not include thousands of death sentences believed to have been carried out in China, where data is not available due to state secrecy.

The group said the spike in recorded executions was primarily driven by Iran, where authorities executed at least 853 people last year, compared to 576 in 2022.

Those executed included 24 women and five people who were children at the time the crimes were committed, Amnesty said, adding that the practice disproportionately affected Iran's Baluch minority.

"The Iranian authorities showed complete disregard for human life and ramped up executions for drug-related offences, further highlighting the discriminatory impact of the death penalty on Iran's most marginalized and impoverished communities," Agnes Callamard, Amnesty's secretary general, said in a statement.

The group said China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and the United States were the five countries with the highest number of executions in 2023. The total number cited in Amnesty's annual report was the highest it recorded since 2015, when 1,634 people were known to have been executed.

Amnesty International director general Agnes Callamard delivers her speech Monday, March 27, 2023 in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Callamard said progress faltered in the U.S., where executions rose from 18 to 24 and a number of states "demonstrated a chilling commitment to the death penalty and a callous intent to invest resources in the taking of human life."

The report cited the introduction of bills to carry out executions by firing squad in Idaho and Tennessee, and Alabama's use of nitrogen gas as a new, untested execution method in January.

Amnesty said that despite the setbacks, there was progress because the number of countries that carried out executions dropped to 16, the lowest on record since the group began monitoring.

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