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Fewer countries report executing criminals

March 27, 2012 at 10:22 AM

LONDON, March 27 (UPI) -- The number of countries employing capital punishment has decreased by more than a third compared to a decade ago, Britain's Amnesty International said.

The human rights watchdog group said only 10 percent of nations, 20 of 198, carried out executions in 2011, resulting in the deaths of at least 676 people.

"The vast majority of countries have moved away from using the death penalty," Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's secretary-general, said Tuesday.

He said countries that employ execution are "out of step with the rest of the world" and called on those nations "to end this most cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment."

The group's annual review of death sentences and executions found that the United States was the only country in the Americas and the only member of the G8 group of leading economies to execute prisoners.

Four countries -- Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen -- accounted for 99 percent of all recorded executions in the Middle East and North Africa.

The death totals do not include China, where information on executions is suppressed. Amnesty International said thousands of people were executed in China in 2011, more than the rest of the world put together.

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