Three nations — Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia — were responsible for 70 percent of the executions recorded by Amnesty. Activists at the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center said the Iranian government’s official capital punishment toll of 289 is likely much higher. The activists put the figure at 721, with a majority of inmates put to death for drug crimes — an application of the penalty that opponents say is particularly heinous. Already this year, the Center has reported 258 executions in Iran, only 73 of which were announced by the government.
In Saudi Arabia, where Amnesty recorded at least 90 executions, some of the cases stemmed from accusations of witchcraft and sorcery, according to the report.
Jordan and Pakistan both resumed executions in December following dramatic terrorist incidents. Jordan lifted its moratorium after the Islamic State burned a captured Jordanian pilot to death, while Pakistan’s move was spurred by the Taliban’s Peshawar school massacre, which killed more than 150 people, mostly children.
In Egypt, the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi sentenced at least 509 people to death. In April, an Egyptian judge handed down a death sentences for 683 defendants tied to a 2013 attack on a police station that left two policemen dead. Though the number of death sentences was later reduced to 183, advocates cited unfair and lightning-quick trials as violations of the defendants’ rights. At the time of the original sentencing, a spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said the verdicts “clearly appear not to meet basic fair trial standards.”
Amid the backdrop of attacks by the Islamist group Boko Haram, Nigerian courts similarly handed down mass death sentence verdicts. Amnesty researchers counted 659 death sentences in Nigeria in 2014, an astronomical rise from the 141 handed down the year prior.