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The American human rights group Dui Hua has put the number of executions in China in 2016 at around 2,000, based on court research and contacts with government officials and legal scholars.

Excluding the executions carried out in China, Amnesty International recorded a 37 percent decrease in the number of executions carried out globally in 2016 as against 2015, which recorded the highest number of executions since 1989.

More than 90 percent of the world's executions took place in five coun.

Amnesty International's investigation exposes that hundreds of documented death penalty cases are missing from a national online court database that was initially touted as a "crucial step towards openness" and is regularly heralded as evidence that the country's judicial system has nothing to hide.

The United States executed 20 previous year, the lowest figure for the country since 1991. Much of the information regarding the application of the death penalty is regarded as "state secrets".

"At least four of those executed included prisoners convicted by the military courts established in January 2015 to try civilians suspected of terrorism-related offences for a period of two years". Out of the 856 executions that were recorded in 2016, Iran alone carried out 66% of them.

In 2011 China dropped the death penalty for 13 economic- related non-violent crimes including smuggling cultural relics.

Those figures were presented by human rights organization Amnesty International in its annual report.

Only a handful of countries still use the death penalty with regularity.

- File picPETALING JAYA, April 11 ― Malaysia was placed 10th in a ranking of world's top executioners after carrying out nine death sentences past year, human rights watchdog Amnesty International Malaysia (AI-M) said in its report.

A drop in executions in the U.S. has meant that America has now fallen out of the top five countries for judicial killings.

Salil Shetty, secretary general of the London-based global human rights watchdog, said the USA decline was "a sign of hope for activists who have long campaigned for an end to capital punishment".

In all, 20 were executed in the country - the lowest number since 1991, half the rate of 2007 and a third of 1997.

The Cabinet also agreed to review the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 to allow judges to use their discretion when sentencing instead of requiring them to impose the mandatory death sentence.

Overall, 141 countries in the world are now "abolitionist", meaning they have either completely abolished capital punishment or are no longer using it in practice. Confirming the trend of previous years, he added, China presumably had executed more people in 2016 than the rest of the world combined.

In Egypt the number of executions doubled from 22 in 2015 to 44 in 2016 - ranking the country sixth place worldwide. The total number of people subject to capital punishment past year was 1,032 down from 1,634 in 2015.

The increase in death sentences is in part due to a resurgence of kidnappings and other crimes in the country's oil-producing south and the ongoing fight against Boko Haram Islamists in the northeast.

While the worldwide total fell to 1,032, Amnesty said that was still above the average during the past 10 years. Iraq and Pakistani rounded out the top five.