Amnesty International's annual review showing the use of the death penalty worldwide found a 28 percent increase -- from 527 to 676 -- in known executions between 2010 and 2011.
In addition to the increased total of 676 executions last year, it is likely that many executions went unreported in China, Syria and Iran. Amnesty has not published execution estimates for China since 2009, stating that the figures in the public records are grossly inaccurate.
Iran is a similar case; the Amnesty report says that it has "credible reports of a large number of unconfirmed or even secret executions in Iran, which would almost double the number of officially acknowledged executions." The report states that the death penalty was used for all kinds of crimes, from adultery to "crimes against the state." Amnesty also expressed concern for an increase in the use of the death penalty by military courts and tribunals in Bahrain, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority (West Bank and Gaza), Somalia and the United States.
According to the report, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates were the only two countries that resumed executions. After two years of no reported executions, Afghanistan reported two in 2011.
However, there has also been a decrease in the number of countries carrying out executions compared to a decade ago, according to Amnesty. "Only 10 percent of countries in the world, 20 out of 198, carried out executions last year," the report notes. There were a few other notable developments; Sierra Leone and Nigeria both placed moratoriums on executions, and there was progress toward abolition of executions in every global region, Amnesty notes. For the first time in 19 years, no executions were reported in Japan.