Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia led a surge in the use of the death penalty last year, according to Amnesty International.
More than three-quarters of the 360 executions officially recognised by Tehran were for drugs offences. Amnesty believes hundreds of others were also put to death.
China, it says, executed more people than the rest of the world put together. The details are a state secret but the human rights group believes thousands were killed.
“There is no independent judiciary in China for
example,” said Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty. “In Iran, in Saudi Arabia all of these happen in secret trials and they invariably also end up targeting particular groups of people, often those who are politically opposed to the regimes.”
Amnesty, a long-term campaigner against the death penalty, is encouraged by the fact that the number of countries using it is in decline.
In 1961, when Amnesty was launched, only nine countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Last year only 20 countries carried out executions.
The rights group describes the US as “shameful” for being the only western democracy to execute people. The only European country to do so was Belarus.
In the French presidential election campaign, Marine Le Pen of the Front National has called for a referendum on the reintroduction of the death penalty.