On Wednesday, Amnesty International reported that executions globally increased 54 percent last year to 1,634, the highest recorded figure since 1989. The report was released on a day Pakistani authorities killed three dissidents by hanging.
The London-based human rights organization found that Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were primarily responsible for the spike in execution deaths. Collectively, the countries were responsible for over 89 percent of all executions recorded worldwide.
Notably, the figure does not include China, which human rights analysts believe executes thousands of dissidents annually. Death penalty data, according to Amnesty, is "treated as a state secret" by Beijing.
Amnesty’s secretary general, Salil Shetty, said, "The rise in executions last year is profoundly disturbing. Not in 25 years have so many people been put to death by countries around the world."
Shetty also criticized the Middle East countries for their reticence to provide proper trials for the accused and their readiness to send those summarily convicted to the gallows. "Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have all put people to death at unprecedented levels, often after grossly unfair trials. This slaughter must end."
The surge in executions does not come as a surprise, in light of recent events. In 2015, Pakistan lifted a six-year moratorium on the death penalty following a school massacre by Taliban insurgents in December 2014 that killed 148, including 132 children. The country initially reinstated death by hanging for terrorist activities, but soon extended it to all capital crimes.
Amnesty’s South Asia director Champa Patel says, "Over the past year, Pakistan has vaulted to the number three spot for recorded state executions in the world – a shameful position no one should aspire to."
Following the reemergence of the practice, Pakistan’s Taliban began to falter, prior to the Easter Sunday bombing in Lahore several weeks ago that killed 72, again mostly children.
A reduction in the number of executions seems unlikely, following the Easter massacre, with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledging that there will be "justice" against the Taliban for the country’s "martyrs."
Amnesty reported some good news, noting that signs suggest that executions have declined dramatically in China, although there are no official records with which to verify the assertion.
The United States, a leader in the global struggle for human rights, was fifth on the list of recorded executions by country, with 28 individuals executed by lethal injection in 2015, behind only China, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.