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Death Penalty Rising In US While Global Executions At Lowest Level

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Executions fell worldwide by almost one-third last year to their lowest levels in a decade, but a few countries including the United States saw a rise in executions, Amnesty International said in its report.

Following a change to its anti-narcotics laws, executions in Iran - a country known for excessive use of the death penalty - fell by 50 percent. Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia also showed a significant reduction in the number of capital punishments. As a result, execution figures fell globally from at least 993 in 2017, to at least 690 in 2018, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

Amnesty International found increases in executions in Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan and the US. Thailand resumed executions after almost a decade.

China remained the world's top executioner - but the true extent of the use of the death penalty is unknown in that country, where figures thought to be in their thousands remain classified as a state secret.

Iran (at least 253), Saudi Arabia (149), Vietnam (at least 85) and Iraq (at least 52) are the world's other top executing countries.

For the tenth consecutive year, the United States remained the only country to carry out executions in the Americas.

The number of executions (25) and death sentences (45) reported in the US slightly increased from 2017.

The state of Texas nearly doubled its figure compared to 2017 (from 7 to 13), accounting for just over half of the country's total.

Overall, 2018's figures show that the death penalty is firmly in decline, and that effective steps are being taken across the world to end the use of this punishment, the London based human rights watchdog said in its "2018 global review of the death penalty" report.

Burkina Faso abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes in 2018. Gambia and Malaysia both declared an official moratorium on executions. In the US, the death penalty statute in the state of Washington was declared unconstitutional.

"Amnesty has been campaigning to stop executions around the world for more than 40 years - but with more than 19,000 people still languishing on death row worldwide, the struggle is far from over," said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's Secretary General.

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