The number of state sanctioned executions being carried out previous year has decreased dramatically since 2015, Amnesty International has said in their annual report on death sentences and executions.
Belarus was singled out in the report as the only country in Europe that carried out the death penalty during 2016, with a total of at least four executions in murder cases.
The report also noted sharp drops in the number of executions in Iran - down 42 percent to at least 567 - and Pakistan - down 73 percent to 87. "China's horrifying use of the death penalty remains one of the country's deadly secrets, as the authorities continue to execute thousands of people each year", the report states.
The United States dropped out of the top five biggest executioners for the first time since 2006, with its figure of 20 people the lowest number recorded since 1991.
According to Amnesty International, at least 1,032 people were recorded as having been executed in 2016.
Amnesty recorded executions in 23 countries, two fewer than in 2015.
"At its best the United Kingdom does some very important work in encouraging countries to end capital punishment, but with death sentences running at record levels around the world now is not the time to go quiet on the issue. We urge all countries to totally abolish the death penalty".
The other countries in the top five are: 2nd, Iran; 3rd, Saudi Arabia; 4th, Iraq and 5th, Pakistan.
For example, in late 2016, Professor Chen Guanzhong, from the China University of Political Science and Law - who's helping reform China's criminal procedure law - was reported as saying: "From what I understand, in the last 10 years the overall number of death sentences [with immediate execution] has gone from a figure above 10,000 to a four-digit number".
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Parliamentary pressure in Malaysia revealed that more than 1,000 people were on death row, with nine people executed in 2016 alone.
Amnesty International excludes China's numbers from its year-end estimate of total executions worldwide since the Chinese government treats executions as a state secret and more precise numbers are unavailable.
China does not release information about the death penalty, but Amnesty calls it "the world's top executioner" and believes it carries out judicial killings "in the thousands" every year.
Chinese legal scholar Hong Daode said 90 per cent of executions previous year were for homicide cases. The figures, however, remain unknown due to extreme state secrecy.
Arkansas, one of the 12 states yet to abolish the death penalty, has not been deterred by legal challenges.
Amnesty International and Amnesty East Asia Regional Director Nicholas Bequelin (L) and Global Issues Programme Deputy Director James Lynch (R) briefed the media briefing at the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) in Hong Kong.
Of those put to death in Iran, the group found, at least two people were under 18 at the time of the crime for which they had been convicted.
According to the report, only 20 executions were recorded in the U.S a year ago.
The Nigerian figure is the second highest in the world, with China again accounting for most sentences of capital punishment.
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