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China, Iran The World's Leading Executioners

Two of the 94 people executed in 2005 by the Iranian authorities (file photo) (epa) April 20, 2006 -- China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States carried out most of the world's executions in 2005, according to new figures released by Amnesty International.

More than 2,000 people were executed in 22 countries last year, with at least 1,700 of those executions taking place in China alone. At least 94 people were executed in Iran, 86 in Saudi Arabia, and 60 in the United States.

The total number of executions was down on the previous year, and Amnesty says a growing number of nations are outlawing the death penalty.

Piers Bannister, an Amnesty International researcher who helped compile the report, told RFE/RL the last 20 years has seen a global trend away from the use of the death penalty.

"In 1985, 45 countries killed their own citizens by state killing. But by 2005 that figure had dropped to 22. We are really starting to see isolated countries who are using the death penalty," Bannister said.

Amnesty's secretary-general, Irene Khan, called the death penalty "the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights because it contravenes the essence of human values."