Hassan Hanafi, a former media officer for the Somali Islamist group al Shabaab, stands tied to a pole before his execution by shooting at close range on a field in General Kahiye Police Academy in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, April 11, 2016.

Media Source: Agence France-Presse

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa have boosted the campaign to abolish the death penalty, contributing to a global drop in executions, Amnesty International said Thursday.

There was a “positive trend recorded globally” according to the rights group, which recorded a four-percent drop in executions from 1,032 in 2016 to 993 last year.

Guinea abolished the death penalty for all crimes, while Kenya no longer imposes the mandatory death sentence for murder.

Burkina Faso was also praised by Amnesty for its draft constitution which includes a provision to scrap the death penalty and Chad for a new penal code which only allows such a sentence in the case of terrorism.

“The progress in sub-Saharan Africa reinforced its position as a beacon of hope for abolition,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s secretary general.

“The leadership of countries in this region gives fresh hope that the abolition of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is within reach,” she added.

Twenty countries in the region have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, with Somalia and South Sudan being the only countries to record executions last year compared to five states in 2016.

“The world’s top executioner” continues to be China, the rights group said, with thousands of executions believed to have been carried out — but the figure is guarded by Beijing as a state secret.

Iran has the highest known figure despite an 11-percent drop on 2016, executing at least 507 people, with at least 31 death sentences carried out in public.

Although Tehran was praised for taking steps last year to reduce the death sentence for drug offenses, Amnesty said authorities had breached international law by executing at least five people who were under 18 when their crimes were committed.

Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Pakistan were the next highest in terms of executions carried out, while the US moved from seventh to eighth place in the global ranking.

The US was noted for putting people on death row who have mental or intellectual disabilities, a criticism also leveled against Japan, the Maldives, Pakistan, and Singapore.

Mongolia was the second country last year to abolish the death penalty, bringing to 106 the number of abolitionist states. A further 36 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, Amnesty said.