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Meanwhile, Guinea became the 20th sub-Saharan African country to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, while Kenya abolished the mandatory death penalty for murder. Burkina Faso and Chad have also joined.

China remains the "world's top executioner" amid a decline in executions worldwide, Amnesty International has said in its annual report on capital punishment.

In 2017, Amnesty campaigned on the case of Jack Greene, who was convicted in 1992 of the murder of Sidney Burnett.

Fifty-five exonerations of prisoners under sentence of death were recorded in six countries: China, Maldives, Nigeria, Taiwan, USA and Zambia. Fortunately, the Arkansas Supreme Court stayed his execution.

"I don't think we are seeing a rise in the number of executions in China".

Executions in the United States slightly increased in 2017, with 41 executions being recorded by Amnesty in the U.S., the report stated.

However, with reports that Botswana and Sudan resumed executions in 2018, the trend in Sub-Saharan Africa was by no means all positive.

The organization expressed "concern" that the 2017 figures represented a small increase on the numbers recorded for each of the years between 2014 and 2016. Nigeria imposed the highest number of death sentences in the region. An independent, Rep. Joe Marino of Gretna, voted with the seven Democrats who favored eliminating the death penalty. The case proceedings of Abd al-Rahim al-Nahiri have not adhered to global fair trial standards. President Donald Trump's recent musings on executing drug dealers raised Amnesty's ire.

"The evidence is quite clear that death penalty is not a deterrent".

The death penalty continued to be used as "tool of retribution in response to public outrage" over attacks by the Islamic State (IS) group, Amnesty International said.

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The report also said Iran had executed at least five people who were under 18 when their crimes were committed. "In Iran, for instance, the drop can be traced to judicial reforms for dealing with drug-related crime", Popoola told DW.

Eighteen countries across the region were known to have imposed death sentences, the same number as in 2016.

Last December, Chinese authorities sentenced 10 men to death, mostly on drug-related charges, at a sports stadium, in the southern city of Lufeng, in front of thousands of spectators. The country did not execute anyone for a non-drug related crime in 2017.

Shetty said with the progress in Africa, "the isolation of the world's remaining executing countries could not be starker".

"There was one death sentence that we should all be reminded, the death sentence of Jesus Christ", said Rep. Terry Landry (D-New Iberia), the bill's sponsor and a former Louisiana State Police superintendent.

Amnesty International recorded a noticeable decrease in the overall number of executions carried out for drug-related offences. The secrecy that shrouded capital punishment in Malaysia and Viet Nam made it impossible to determine whether executions for drug crimes occurred.

"People have been known to have been executed for passing state secrets".

Despite an 11 per cent drop on 2016, the Middle Eastern country is still sanctioning state killings, with at least 31 of these being carried out in public, the report says.

"Bahraini reiterated that Iran even lags behind its neighbors, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iraq, as Tehran has executed far more people than those three countries during the past year", adding that these four countries and China comprise an isolated minority in the community of nations that still violate people's right to live". "Strong leaders execute justice, not people", Amnesty International's Secretary General Salil Shetty said.