The United States was (again) among the five countries Amnesty said carried out the most executions last year, though it was far, far behind the estimated numbers for China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Of course, these numbers are largely not considered exact figures, because Amnesty, which opposes the death penalty, is unable to obtain complete details on executions in certain places. Because China does not release or confirm any details regarding executions, Amnesty excludes it from its overall numbers, though the organization says in the report it believes China “carried out more executions than the rest of the world combined.”
The United States is the only country among the top nine where Amnesty reported a number it believes is an official tally rather than a minimum figure. (Iran, for instance, officially said it executed 289 people, but Amnesty says that hundreds of other executions were also carried out.)
Overall, the number of executions worldwide is believed to have dropped, while the number of people sentenced to death went up, Amnesty said in its annual report on the subject.
The United States has executed fewer inmates than it had by this point a year ago. Over the first three months of 2015, the United States carried out 10 executions, down from 14 executions over the same period last year.
A part of this has been the overall decline in executions, which has occurred as states have struggled to obtain the drugs needed for lethal injections. As a result of this shortage, Utah recently announced that it would make the firing squad its backup method of execution, while Tennessee made the electric chair its backup method last year.
Still, another part has been execution lulls in some of the most active states. Executions have been delayed in Florida, Oklahoma and Alabama until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a case involving lethal injection following three problematic executions. Meanwhile, executions have also been halted indefinitely in Georgia and Ohio due to issues with the drugs sought by officials. Since 2010, those five states combined to carry out 82 executions, more than a third of all executions over that span nationwide.
Every execution in the United States last year was carried out by lethal injection, which Amnesty said was also used in China and Vietnam. Executions were carried out in other countries through beheading (Saudi Arabia), hanging (a dozen countries) and shootings (in 10 countries).