Prisoners behind bars in an Egyptian court (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt and Nigeria make up well over a third of the world's total death sentences in 2014, with over 1,000 death sentences recorded in both states last year, Amnesty International said Tuesday.
The London-based rights watchdog said that the number of death sentences handed down in 55 countries rose by over a quarter during 2014 from the year before, at least 2,466 compared to 1,925, which is largely linked to crackdowns on terrorism or internal security.
"An alarming number of countries that used the death penalty in 2014 did so in response to real or perceived threats to state security and public safety posed by terrorism, crime or internal stability," the group's annual report said.
Egypt announced at least 509 death sentences during 2014, many of them handed down in hurried trials following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, drawing international condemnation.
In one case in December 2014, 188 people were sentenced to death over the killings of at least 11 police officers in the town of Kerdasa. Sentences against 183 of those were confirmed in February.
Earlier in 2014, another 37 Islamists were sentenced to death in rulings that were part of a final judgment on 528 supporters of the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood group who received initial death sentences over violence in a southern province.
In Nigeria, death sentences went up to 659 in 2014 from 141 in 2013, partially associated with security operations against Islamist insurgent of the militant group Boko Haram.
At least 607 people were executed in 22 countries last year, excluding China, where the group says thousands of people are executed every year but numbers are kept a state secret.
The report noted that Egypt carried out 15 confirmed executions during 2014, less than Iran (289), Saudi Arabia (90), Iraq (61), and USA (35).
The United States was the only country in the Americas to put people to death in 2014, the report said, with the bulk of the executions taking place in the states of Texas, Missouri, Florida and Oklahoma.
"The disturbing trend of states using the death penalty to combat threats against state security was visible around the world," the report said, adding that China, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq all executed people accused of “terrorism."
In North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia, the report adds, "governments continued to use the death penalty as a tool to suppress political dissent."
China is believed to have executed more people than all other countries put together. But such numbers are a state secret and "impossible" to work out.