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Some 2,390 prisoners in 25 countries were executed in 2008, according
Some 2,390 prisoners in 25 countries were executed in 2008, according to a report released on Tuesday by the London-based international human rights organization, Amnesty International.

According to the report, 93% of the death sentences carried out in 2008 were in China, Iran, Pakistan, and the United States, with China executing the majority (at least 1,718). Iran was second with at least 346 executions, followed by Saudi Arabia executing at least 102, and the United States with 37, the state of Texas executing almost half (18). Pakistan put at least 36 people to death last year.

"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," said Amnesty's secretary general, Irene Khan. "Beheadings, electrocutions, hangings, lethal injections, shootings and stonings have no place in the 21st century."

Capital punishment is a "legalized process of physical and psychological terror that culminates in people being killed by the state," Khan said. "It must be brought to an end."

Throughout the world at least 8,864 people are sitting on death row, according to the report. The human rights group also noted that only 25 of the 59 countries that retain the death penalty actually carried out executions during 2008.

Russia has had a moratorium on the death penalty since it joined the Council of Europe in 1996, when it promised to remove capital punishment from its system. However, the sentence is still on the books and the Council of Europe has demanded that Russia codify into law its de facto abolishment of the death penalty.

"Belarus is the last country in Europe and the former Soviet Union that is still carrying out executions," the group said, adding that there were at least four people executed in Belarus last year, and an estimated 400 since 1991, although there are no official records.

Overall, Amnesty reported a decline in executions, which it said "indicates that there is increasing consolidation of majority international consensus that the death penalty cannot be reconciled with respect for human rights." The report did not show comparative statistics from its previous annual reports.


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