Washington, March 28 (DPA) Worldwide executions dropped sharply in 2010 as abolishing the death penalty gained momentum, Amnesty International reported in its annual study.
Amnesty's report released in London Monday counted at least 527 executions, down from the known figure of 714 known executions in 2009.
Amnesty said, however, that China is believed to have executed thousands of people but keeps its numbers secret.
Thirty-one countries abolished the death penalty in the last decade, including Mongolia in 2010. Amnesty said China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the US and Yemen remain the most frequent practitioners of the death penalty.
A significant proportion of the executions or death sentences in 2010 that took place in China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Laos, Libya, Malaysia, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen were for drug-related crimes, Amnesty said.
While executions may be on the decline, a number of countries continue to pass death sentences for drug-related offences, economic crimes, sexual relations between consenting adults and blasphemy, violating international human rights law forbidding the use of the death penalty except for the most serious crimes," Salil Shetty,
Amnesty's secretary general, said.
Asia and the Middle East were the regions with the most executions. In the US, where the death penalty is only handed down for violent crimes like premeditated murder, there were 110 execution sentences, Amnesty said.
The US state of Illinois banned the death penalty in March.