China carries out more executions than any other country, a new report has estimated.
"Thousands" of people were executed in 2013, the Death Sentences and Executions 2013 report by Amnesty International concluded, followed by 369 in Iran and 169 in Iraq.
But Amnesty could not release the exact figure of public executions in China because data on the use of the death penalty there is considered a state secret.
The number of known executions around the world rose by almost 15 per cent in 2013, and the United States was among the five countries putting the most people to death, the report said.
It highlighted a "sharp spike" in the number of people executed in 2013 when compared to the previous year, with publicly disclosed executions last year totalling 778, compared with 682 in 2012.
Excluding China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia accounted for 80 per cent of all executions in 2013.
"The killing sprees we saw in countries like Iran and Iraq were shameful," Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary General, said in a statement.
"Only a small number of countries carried out the vast majority of these senseless state-sponsored killings."
It listed the known methods of execution, including beheading in Saudi Arabia, electrocution in the US and lethal injection in China, Vietnam and the United States. Several countries were listed as using hanging and shooting.
Europe, however, remained execution free in 2013 for the first time since 2009, although Belarus - the only country to still enforce the death penalty - sentenced four people to death.
At least 23,000 people were on death row across the world as of the end of 2013. It also counted 1,925 people sentenced to death in 57 countries last year, up from the year before.
"We oppose the death penalty in all cases, without exception," Jose Luis Diaz, the group's representative at the United Nations, said on Wednesday. "It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment."
The 10 places where most executions were carried out in 2013:
Amnesty International does not have an official figure on executions in China during 2013, but believes the figure to be in the thousands.
Iran carried out 369 public executions.
Iraq committed 169 public executions in 2013.
4. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia carried out 79 executions in 2013.
Thirty-nine people were executed in the US in 2013.
In Somalia, 34 people were publicly executed last year.
Twenty-one people were executed in Sudan.
Thirteen people were executed in Yemen in 2013.
Eight people were executed in Japan, according to the report.
Vietnam does not release public figures on executions but Amnesty estimate the number to be a minimum of seven.
- THE INDEPENDENT