Only one in 10 countries in the world carried out capital punishment last year, as the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty continued, with some progress in Africa, "disappointing" setbacks in Asia Pacific and great concerns about the Middle East, according to a report.
China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the US carried out the most executions in 2012, according to Amnesty International's annual report on death sentences and capital punishment, published on Wednesday. Yemen was not far behind the five.
Since 2009, Amnesty has declined to release estimates about the number of executions in China, which is believed to be in the several thousands, more than the rest of the world combined.
Setting China aside, Iran had the worst record last year, executing at least 314 people. Most of those put to death were convicted on drug-trafficking offences. Iran is also notorious for its public hangings.
"Iran continued to impose death sentences on juvenile offenders, in violation of international law," Amnesty said.
The UN special rapporteur complaining about "the absence of fair trial standards" in the country.
In 2012, Amnesty said there was "credible evidence" that Iran also put convicts to death in secret, which would bring the minimum figure acknowledged by the officials up from 314 to 544.
Iraq executed at least 129 people.
Saudi Arabia executed at least 79, the US 43, Yemen 28, Sudan 19, Afghanistan 14 and Somalia 12. In Egypt, Amnesty said it could not confirm whether executions took place because information was difficult to obtain.
"The regression we saw in some countries this year was disappointing, but it does not reverse the worldwide trend against using the death penalty. In many parts of the world, executions are becoming a thing of the past," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty's secretary general.
"Only one in 10 countries in the world carries out executions