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Death penalty: Large fall in number of state executions

Breakdown of death sentences issued excluding China. Source Amnesty International

The group estimated that several thousand people were put to death past year, without detailing how it arrived at that estimate.

Chiara Sangiorgio, an advisor to Amnesty's death penalty research team, told RFE/RL there also are increasingly worrying efforts by authorities in some countries to hide the scale of executions that are carried out.

Human rights activists say China's use of the death penalty remains shrouded in secrecy and still outpaces the rest of the world combined, even after the nation's execution rate fell sharply in recent years.

"There's absolutely no way to know whether the number of executions is going up or down in China", despite claims by the Chinese government to be killing fewer and killing carefully, said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International's regional director for East Asia.

The Amnesty report on China is contrary to Chinese Supreme Court report last month which said that death sentences were being given to extremely small number of criminals in the last 10 years. The number of executions was higher again than people had expected.

"Iran alone accounted for 55pc of all recorded executions", Amnesty said.

Shamini said the report however was unable to confirm whether there are any individuals who are on death row here over drug offences. The organization said that figure still represents but a fraction of the total put to death.

Only a handful of countries still use the death penalty with regularity.

But the country continues to execute those who have committed offenses that do not meet the threshold of "most serious crimes", including for drugs and arson.

Videotaped confessions also were aired on state television before trials took place in a pattern described by Amnesty as a blatant violation of the defendants' right to a fair trial. Only China and Iran executed more people during that period. At least 33 executions in Iran during 2016 were carried out publicly.

The report showed that executions at the global level had decreased 37% from a historical high of 1,634 executions in 2015. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan were the top executioners.

Currently, the law only provides for one sentence for those convicted of drug-related offences - death.

With nine executions in 2016, Malaysia is among 23 countries that executed 1,032 people globally. It said that 31 were issued by special antiterrorism courts.

Maldives and the Philippines took steps in the wrong direction towards the resumptions of executions after more than six decades and the reintroduction of the death penalty, respectively.

The United States had 20 recorded executions, its lowest since 1991.

The President of India, in exercise of his powers of clemency under Article 72 of the Constitution of India, rejected the mercy petitions of six prisoners, as reported by the National Law University Delhi in its Death Penalty India Report.

In sub-Saharan Africa fewer executions were recorded but the number of death sentences more than doubled, largely due to a steep rise in Nigeria. "This really stands in contrast with what the government is claiming in recent years". As a nominally communist state you would think that the Chinese Communist Party would pay some heed to Karl Marx's view on capital punishment.

These figures make the country the third-highest executor in the world. "With just four countries responsible for 87% of all recorded executions - the death penalty is itself living on borrowed time".