Amnesty International has reported a growing global trend toward abolition of the death penalty and said executions now are banned by law or not practiced in almost half the world.

"Some 80 countries - close to half of all countries in the world (168) - are abolitionist either in law or practice," it reported."Clearly the right to life will not be fully respected until the world community unambiguously rejects judicial killing as a means of protecting social order."

The London-based organization made its report to the current annual session of the 43-nation U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

Amnesty said it fully supported a draft "optional protocol" to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which aims at eventual general abolition of the death penalty.

"Clearly the right to life will not be fully respected until the world community unambiguously rejects judicial killing as a means of protecting social order," Amnesty's report said. "Therefore, Amnesty International is encouraged by the global trend toward abolition of the death penalty."

Amnesty said its latest information shows that 35 countries have abolished the death penalty for all offenses and 18 others for all but wartime offenses and other exceptional crimes.

"This brings the number of abolitionist states to 53," the report said. "In addition, another 27 contries or territories that retain the death penalty in law have not carried out an execution during at least the past 10 years.

"We also note that in a number of countries the death penalty has all but ceased to be used as an instrument of criminal policy," Amnesty's report said.

"In these countries the number of executions has dwindled to one or two per year," it said.

"Only in a handful of countries is the death penalty still widely used," Amnesty said.

There was no mention of any specific countries, but Amnesty earlier this month harshly condemned Iran for a wave of mass executions.