Saudi Arabia executes prince from House of Saud in unprecedented act
Members of Magic Movement, a group of young Bangladeshis, stage a mock execution scene in protest of Saudi Arabia beheading of eight Bangladeshi workers in front of National Museum in Dhaka October 15, 2011. Eight Bangladeshi migrants have been beheaded in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh in public on October 7, as they were sentenced to death for the alleged murder of an Egyptian man in April 2007, an interior ministry of Saudua Arabia statement said. REUTERS

China has remained the worlds top executioner amid a decline in global executions, Amnesty International's annual report on capital punishment said on Thursday.

Amnesty International recorded at least 993 executions in 23 countries in 2017, down by 4 per cent from 2016 (1,032 executions) and 39 per cent from 2015 when the London-based organisation reported 1,634 executions, the highest number since 1989.

Besides China, 84 per cent of all reported executions took place in just four countries -- Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) resumed executions in 2017, the report said.

Executions noticeably fell in Belarus (by 50 per cent) and Egypt (20 per cent). However, it increased in Palestine from three in 2016 to six in 2017; in Singapore from four to eight; and in Somalia from 14 to 24.

In 2017, Guinea and Mongolia abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes.

While Kenya abolished the mandatory death penalty for murder, Burkina Faso and Chad also took steps to repeal this punishment with new or proposed laws.

"The progress in sub-Saharan Africa reinforced its position as a beacon of hope for abolition... It is high time that the rest of the world follows their lead and consigns this abhorrent punishment to the history books," said Amnesty's Secretary General Salil Shetty.

The report also showed Amnesty International recorded commutations or pardons of death sentences in 21 countries including India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the US.

The organisation recorded at least 2,591 death sentences in 53 countries in 2017, a significant decrease from the record-high of 3,117 recorded in 2016. At least 21,919 people were known to be on death row at the end of 2017.