China remained the world's top executioner - but the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as this data is considered a state secret; the global figure of at least 1,032 excludes the thousands of executions believed to have been carried out in China.
The number of executions around the world fell by more than a third to 1,032 across 23 countries in 2016, compared with 1,634 in 25 countries in 2015.
Iran recorded the second-largest number of executions with 597, although it dropped by 42 per cent (977) from the previous year.
China's database contains only a tiny fraction of the thousands of death sentences that Amnesty International estimates are handed out every year in China, reflecting the fact that the Chinese government continues to maintain nearly total secrecy over the number of people sentenced to death and executed in the country.
Amnesty said that China remained the world's top executioner but said that secrecy around the death penalty made it hard to confirm the figures.
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"The Chinese government itself has said it's going to be transparent, and based on [its] principle of complete openness, if it wants people to take it seriously it should [be transparent]", Mr Nee said.
Salil Shetty, secretary general of the London-based worldwide human rights watchdog, said the United States decline was "a sign of hope for activists who have long campaigned for an end to capital punishment". The report from Viet Nam's Ministry of Public Security does not contain a breakdown of figures for 2016.
In comparison, Pakistan too recorded a significant dip of 73 per cent in the number of executions.
Currently, the law only provides for one sentence for those convicted of drug-related offences - death.
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"Over the past few years the risk of people being executed for crimes they did not commit has caused increasing alarm among the public in China", said the report.
For the first time since 2006, the U.S. was not one of the five biggest executioners, falling to seventh behind Egypt.
While the debate is clearly shifting, the fall in executions was due partly to litigation on lethal injection protocols and challenges in sourcing chemicals in several states. However, 2,832 people are still on death row in the USA.
Most US executions took place in the states of Georgia and Texas, while 19 states have abolished the death penalty.
"There's still a mentality of harsh punitive justice, and in many cases the death penalty is seen as a default option", Mr Nee told SBS News. But it said only 85 of the executions were registered in a state database.
"When, shockingly, Bahrain executed three men after deeply unfair trials recently, the Foreign Secretary could muster only the mildest of rebukes".
In December, a court in Hunan province handed down the death sentence for two drug dealers, one from Hong Kong and the other from Mexico, for producing and selling drugs on the mainland. "We're talking about thousands of lives - not only wrongful executions but also cases where people are perhaps guilty but there are mitigating circumstances or issues of fair legal representation".
In 2015, Amnesty found media reports of 335 cases of capital punishment in China, 18 of which were in the database.
While the government has agreed to review drug laws in the country, it should also explore its options in entirely abolishing the death penalty, Shamini said.
Uighurs accounted for about 4% of death sentences, despite accounting for only 0.7% of China's total population, according to a partial analysis of capital punishment data.