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Executions down worldwide: report

[JURIST] Anti-death-penalty group Hands Off Cain [advocacy website] said Wednesday that the number of countries with capital punishment, as well as the total number of executions was down in 2008 [report] from the previous year. According to the group, at least 5,727 executions were carried out in the 46 countries that retain the death penalty. It cited the execution of minors, public executions, and executions of those convicted of non-violent crimes as the most egregious cases. It also said that its estimates were likely low, as many executions are kept secret. It said that China continued to account for more executions than any other country. In 2008, the country executed at least 5,000 people, or more than 87 percent of the world's total. China said Wednesday that it plans to reduce [China Daily report] the number of executions it conducts. Hands Off Cain praised jurisdictions that had stopped using the penalty, particularly the state of New Mexico, which banned its use [press release; JURIST report] earlier this year.

In its 2007 report, Hands Off Cain reported that there were 5,851 executions and 51 countries with the death penalty. That represented an increase in executions, but a decrease in the number of countries with executions from the previous year [JURIST report]. Countries around the world also continue to debate details of the penalty, with the US ending a de facto national moratorium [JURIST report] on the death penalty last year when the US Supreme Court ruled in Baze v. Rees [JURIST report] that the three-drug lethal injection sequence [DPIC backgrounder] used in most states does not violate the Constitution. Recently, both China and India have contemplated switching to lethal injections, and Iran has stayed the executions [JURIST reports] of some convicted as minors.

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