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A guard stands behind bars at the Adjustment Center during a media tour of California's Death Row at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California

Executions spiked in 2015, highest level in 25 years, Amnesty International report finds

According to a new report by Amnesty International, there were at least 1,634 executions worldwide last year, the most since 1989.

The London-based human rights organization reported that the number of state executions documented in Wednesday’s report showed a 54 percent increase in 2015, up from 1,061 deaths in 2014. Amnesty also said three countries — Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — carried out 89 percent of all recorded executions in 2015. The report added that the data does not account for China’s executions, which could be in the thousands, since the state does not release those numbers.

Executions in Iran increased by 31 percent to 977 last year, while the 326 deaths in Pakistan was the highest number ever recorded by Amnesty, the report said. Executions in Saudi Arabia rose by 76 percent, with at least 158 deaths recorded in 2015.

Despite the dramatic increase of deaths, four more countries abolished the death penalty for all crimes this year. Republic of Congo, Fiji, Madagascar and Surinam joined 98 other countries, including Canada, Australia and most of the European Union, in enacting legislation against the death penalty.

In the United States, 28 people were executed in 2015. Texas was responsible for most of those deaths, putting 13 people to death, the report said. Last year’s figure may have been the lowest number of recorded executions in the U.S. since 1991, but Amnesty said the decrease was, in part, connected to legal challenges over lethal injections.

The report notes that Iran, Maldives and Pakistan sentenced juvenile offenders to death in 2015, in violation of international law.

It said several countries violate these laws, “putting to death people with mental or intellectual disabilities, as well as those charged with non-lethal crimes. Apart from drug-related offences, people were executed for crimes such as adultery, blasphemy, corruption, kidnapping and “questioning the leader’s policies.”

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