New Delhi: At least 690 executions were carried out in 20 countries in 2018, including in the US, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Singapore and Japan, according to Amnesty International.
It said 142 countries have abolished death penalty in practice by the end of 2018, even as India figures among 29 nations which pardoned a death case that year.
The figures, as compiled by the international human rights NGO, were 31 per cent lower than 2017, when at least 993 executions took place around the world.
According to separate information available with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than 160 member states of the UN with a variety of legal systems, traditions, cultures and religious backgrounds, have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it.
"Amnesty International recorded at least 690 executions in 20 countries in 2018, a decrease of 31 per cent compared to 2017 (at least 993). This figure represents the lowest number of executions that Amnesty International has recorded in the past decade," Amnesty stated on its website.
"Most executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Iraq in that order," it added.
China remained the world's leading executioner but the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as this data is classified as a state secret; the global figure of at least 690 excludes the thousands of executions believed to have been carried out in China, the NGO said.
Vietnam authorities indicated that 85 executions had been carried out during 2018, placing the country among the world's top five executioners, Amnesty said.
Excluding China, 78 per cent of all reported executions took place in just four countries-Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Iraq, it noted.
For the 10th consecutive year, the US remained the only country to carry out executions in North America. The number of executions (25) and death sentences (45) reported in the US slightly increased compared to 2017, Amnesty said.
In Asia Pacific, at least 136 executions in nine countries were known to have been carried out throughout the region in 2018, compared to at least 93 in 2017.
This increase was mostly due to the rare disclosure of a figure from the authorities of Vietnam. It does not include the thousands of executions that Amnesty International believed were carried out in China, the NGO stated.
Thailand resumed executions for the first time since 2009, it said, adding Japan more than tripled its annual figure (from four to 15), after the hanging of 13 men involved in a high-profile case, which saw a deadly Sarin chemical attack on the Tokyo underground in 1995.
Singapore reported 13 executions, the first time since 2003 that its execution total reached a double-digit figure, the Amnesty stated.
Pakistan reported a drop of 77 per cent in executions, from 60 in 2017 to at least 14 in 2018, it added.
At least 1,100 new death sentences across 17 countries were known to have been imposed, a slight increase from the total of 1,037 recorded the previous year.
Amnesty International said it did not report any executions in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Palestine and the UAE, despite having done so in 2017.
At least 19,336 people were known to be under sentence of death globally at the end of 2018, Amnesty said.
Among methods of execution were used across the world in 2018 were beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting, while two new death sentences by stoning were known to have been imposed in Iran, it added.
At the end of 2018, 106 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes, and 142 countries (more than two-thirds) had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
Amnesty International recorded commutations or pardons of death sentences in 29 countries, including India, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, Botswana, China, Egypt, Guyana, Iran, Kuwait, Malawi, Malaysia, the Maldives, Morocco/Western Sahara, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, South Korea, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, the UAE, US and Zimbabwe.
Amnesty International recorded at least 2,531 death sentences in 54 countries, a slight decrease from the total of 2,591 reported in 2017, the report on its website stated.