Rome-based Hands Off Cain said the increase came because more countries that have capital punishment on their books actually resorted to it in 2006. In its annual report on the death penalty, Hands Off Cain said the gradual trend of abolishing capital punishment continued, with 51 countries retaining the death penalty compared with 54 in 2005. But it said 27 countries had resorted to the death penalty in 2006, up from 24 in 2005. As a result, the number of executions increased, to at least 5,628 last year compared with 5,494 in 2005 and 5,530 in 2004. Overall, 146 countries and territories have renounced the death penalty to some extent, either through outright abolition or a moratorium, Hands Off Cain said. The group said it uses reports from NGOs and mainstream media in compiling its report. The report said China remained the top executioner, with unconfirmed reports that as many as 8,000 people are put to death annually. The report cited Chinese officials and academics as saying executions had decreased, though – in part because of a new amendment requiring the Supreme Court to confirm all death sentences and for public hearings for appeals. Iran came in second in the group’s top execution rankings. Hands Off Cain said Tehran doubled the number of people it put to death in 2006, executing at least 215 people compared with 113 in 2005, though it said the real number may be higher. Pakistan also nearly doubled the number of executions in 2006, putting at least 82 people to death last year compared with 42 a year earlier. Hands Off Cain said both Iran and Pakistan executed minors in violation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United States remained the only country in the Americas that carried out a death sentence in 2006. Fifty-three people were executed in the United States in 2006, down from 60 in 2005 and 59 in 2004, the group said. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! REPORT: Compared with 2004 and 2005, more countries used capital punishment. By Nicole Winfield THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ROME – Even though more countries are renouncing the death penalty, more people were put to death last year – 5,628 – than in the past two years, an anti-death-penalty group reported Thursday.