[JURIST] Afghanistan has ended a three-year moratorium on the death penalty by executing 15 prisoners Sunday by firing squad at Pul-e-Charkhi [BBC backgrounder], the country's largest prison, Afghanistan's chief of prisons said Monday. The executions are the second confirmed reports of executions being carried out in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. The last confirmed execution was that of former military commander Abdullah Shahhiatus [Amnesty report], who was executed [BBC report] by a shot to the head in April 2004. After Shahhiatus' execution, Afghan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile] publicly said that the death penalty would be suspended. AP has more.
Earlier this year, Rome-based anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain [advocacy website] released a report [text; press release] stating that the number of executions worldwide increased slightly in 2006 while the number of countries that employ capital punishment decreased. According to statistics compiled from news reports and NGOs, there were 5628 executions in 27 countries in 2006, up from 5494 executions in 24 countries in 2005. At the same time, three countries abolished the death penalty [JURIST news archive] last year, reducing the number of countries that use capital punishment to 51. In total, 146 countries have either abolished or placed a moratorium on the death penalty.