The year 2016 saw a near 37% drop in the number of executions carried out in a year, according to Amnesty International. Death sentences for at least 1,032 people were implemented in 23 countries last year, down from 1,634 in 25 countries worldwide in 2015.

While the count remains a classified state secret, China retained its spot as the world’s “top executioner” in 2016 with “thousands of executions” believed to have been carried out in the country. However, the report’s total 1,032 figure does not include the executions in China.

India had no executions in 2016, but was among the few countries to hand out capital punishment for drug-related crimes, the Amnesty report said. It also noted the amendments the Centre had brought in to impose death penalty for hijacking when it results in deaths. In total, 136 death sentences were imposed in India last year.

Of the 1,032 executions carried out in 2016, 87% took place in just four countries – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan. At the end of the year, 18,848 people were on death row. Amnesty noted the methods used to execute convicts, including beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting. At least 33 public executions were carried out in Iran and several in North Korea.

Moreover, Benin and Nauru joined 102 other nations to abolish the death penalty in law for all crimes. In November last year, India had opposed a United Nations draft resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, saying it went against the sovereign right of every nation to determine its own legal practices.

Amnesty has specified that the figures may be higher in reality because of constraint with regard to information on death sentences available from a few countries.

Regional figures

Asia-Pacific: The number of death penalties implemented dropped from 367 in 12 countries in 2015 to 130 last year in 11 countries. This was primarily because executions in Pakistan had declined by 239 (73%). The Asia-Pacific figure does not include the executions carried out in China. Vietnam is also one of the world’s biggest executioners.

Americas: With 20 executions, the United States dropped from the top five – for the first time since 2006 – to the seventh spot. But it remained the only country in the Americas to carry out executions for the eighth straight year. Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago were the only other nations in the region to impose death sentences in 2016.

Europe and Central Asia: Belarus and Kazakhstan are the only two nations in the region to impose death sentences.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Some 22 executions were carried out in five countries last year, lower than the 43 carried out in four countries in 2015. However, the number of death penalties imposed increased from 443 in 2015 to 1,086 in 2016, primarily because of Nigeria (from 171 to 527), which handed out more death sentences than every country but China in 2016.

Middle East and North Africa: The number dropped by 28% against the previous year – 856 in 2016 from 1,196 executions in 2015.