Fewer nations carry out executions
Death penalties are "becoming a thing of the past" in many parts of the world, human rights campaigners have said, despite figures showing little change in the number of confirmed executions last year.
There were at least 682 confirmed executions worldwide last year, two more than in 2011, including beheadings, hangings and firing squad, showed a new report from Amnesty International.
Meanwhile, there were at least 1,722 newly imposed death sentences in 58 countries last year, compared to 1,923 in 63 countries in 2011.
The report - Deaths Sentences and Executions in 2012 - is published shortly after Briton Lindsay Sandiford lost her appeal against her death sentence in Bali for smuggling £1.6 million worth of cocaine.
Amnesty International secretary general Salil Shetty said: "The regression we saw in some countries this year was disappointing, but it does not reverse the worldwide trend against using the death penalty. In many parts of the world, executions are becoming a thing of the past.
"Only one in 10 countries in the world carries out executions. Their leaders should ask themselves why they are still applying a cruel and inhumane punishment that the rest of the world is leaving behind."
The most prolific executing countries in the world last year were China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States, said Amnesty.
Some 21 countries were confirmed as having carried out executions in 2012, the same number as in 2011, but Amnesty said this is significantly down from levels a decade ago when 28 countries carried out executions in 2003.
However, Amnesty expressed concern at a resumption of executions in several countries - India, Japan, Pakistan and Gambia - that had not used the death penalty for some time. And the organisation flagged an escalation in the number of executions in Iraq in 2012, with the figure up to at least 129, which included 34 executions carried out in a single day.
As in previous years, Belarus was the only country in Europe and Central Asia to carry out executions, with at least three men put to death in 2012. Latvia became the 97th country in the world to become abolitionist for all crimes, after removing the last capital crimes from its legislation during 2012.