While around 170 countries have either abolished the death penalty and put a moratorium on its use – most recently, Gambia and Madagascar – executions in 2016 were down 37 per cent compared in 2015.

But four countries — Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan — accounted for 87% of all executions.

“The death penalty has no place in the 21st century,”  said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

“Some governments conceal executions and enforce an elaborate system of secrecy to hide who is on death row, and why,”he said.

He urged countries that have abolished the death penalty to lend their voice to the call on the leaders of those countries that retain it.

The UN’s Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has been ratified by 85 countries. It requires the parties to abolish death penalty, making it the only universal international legal instrument that aims to end the practice.

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