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Amnesty: Almost 2,400 executed in 2008

  • Story Highlights
  • Amnesty: China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, U.S. account for nearly all executions
  • Stoning, hanging often used in Iran's executions, Amnesty report finds
  • United States carried out 37 executions, lowest since 1995, report finds
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Almost 2,400 people worldwide were executed last year, but most countries moved a step closer toward abolishing the death penalty, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

China carried out more executions than the rest of the world combined, with 1,718 people put to death, the human-rights group said.

With China, four other nations -- Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States -- accounted for 93 percent of the 2,390 executions, according to the group's report "Death Sentences and Executions in 2008."

"The good news is that executions are only carried out by a small number of countries, which shows that we are moving closer to a death-penalty free world," Irene Khan, Amnesty International's secretary general, said in a statement.

"By contrast, the bad news is that hundreds of people continue to be sentenced to death and suffer in the many countries that have not yet formally abolished the death penalty."

Fifty-nine countries retain the death penalty. But only 25 of them carried out executions in 2008. In Europe, only one country carried out the death sentence: Belarus, where four people were executed last year.

Among the report's findings:

  • Iran executed at least 346 people, including eight juveniles. Stoning and hanging were methods often used.
  • Saudi Arabia put to death 102 people. It often publicly beheaded the condemned, and sometimes followed that by crucifying them.
  • The United States carried out 37 executions, but the number was the lowest since 1995.
  • A disproportionate number of death sentences were handed down to the poor and minorities in Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
  • Many death row inmates face harsh detention conditions and psychological hardships. In Japan, for example, inmates are notified of their hanging on the morning of the execution; their families are informed after the inmates have been put to death.
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