Executions in China said to outpace world despite decline

King Salman of Saudi Arabia one of the countries criticised in the report

It is estimated that China executes thousands of people, but Beijing does not release statistics and considers the number of death sentences to be a state secret.

Belarus, Botswana, Nigeria and authorities within the State of Palestine resumed executions in 2016; Chad, India, Jordan, Oman and United Arab Emirates -all countries that executed people in 2015 - did not report any executions a year ago.

Despite fewer executions, Iran and Pakistan remain in Amnesty's top five list, along with China, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

"China wants to be a leader on the world stage, but when it comes to the death penalty it is leading in the worst possible way - executing more people annually than any other country in the world".

United States death penalty sentences fell to a historic low a year ago and executions also dropped sharply, contributing to a global slump of over a third from 2015, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

Over the past decade, spurred on by domestic outrage over wrongful executions and embarrassed by global condemnation, the Chinese government embarked on a course of reforms of the death penalty system, under the less than reassuring banner of "killing fewer, killing cautiously".

In Iran, at least 567 people were executed past year, compared with 977 in 2015.

The authors also note that drug-related offences do not belong to the category of "most serious offences" to which the death penalty should be restricted under global law.

"China is really the only country that has such a complete regime of secrecy over executions", Amnesty's East Asia director Nicholas Bequelin said at a press conference in Hong Kong.

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"When, shockingly, Bahrain executed three men after deeply unfair trials recently, the Foreign Secretary could muster only the mildest of rebukes".

The US, for the first time since 2006, fell from its place in top five executors to seventh place behind Egypt. "The size of death row was higher than expected".

However, Susan Trevaskes of Australia's Griffith University, concluded in a recent study that close to half of all death sentences were handed down for drug crimes.

Methods of execution used around the world included beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting. The number of executions was higher again than people had expected. Together these two states were responsible for the 80% of all executions in the country during the year. Meanwhile, 12 states, including Arkansas, yet to abolish the death penalty have not executed anyone for at least 10 years.

In fact, India was also among the few countries to impose death penalty for drug-related offences. But we have to fight to keep it that way. "The shocking number of executions scheduled over a ten-day period in Arkansas this April is a clear example of how quickly the picture can change", said Salil Shetty. "Ms May must condemn the use of the death penalty as a tool of oppression".

"The five isolated states that carried out executions past year are behind the times". The death penalty is not going to make anyone any safer. Not only are they against a national trend, but also a regional one.

The ultimate sanction is typically applied for murder, rape, robbery and drug offences, and in 2011, the courts were told to stop giving the death sentence for crimes such as smuggling cultural relics and rare animals and other non-violent crimes, although drug trafficking remains a capital offence.

Globally, countries are moving away from the death penalty, with 141 countries abolishing it in law or practice, according to Amnesty. "For eight years now the US has had the shameful distinction of being the only country in the Americas that carries out executions".

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