The resumption of executions in Indonesia, where two Australians are on death row, is inhumane, cruel, and out of step with the global trend, says Amnesty International.
The human rights organisation on Thursday released its annual report on death sentences, finding the number of known executions worldwide rose to at least 778 last year.
Indonesia used the death penalty for the first time in four years, putting five men to death, including two for drug trafficking.
Two Australians – the Bali Nine’s Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – were sentenced to death in 2005 for their roles in a plot to smuggle more than eight kilos of heroin out of Bali to Australia.
Their appeals for clemency are awaiting a decision by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose term expires later this year.
Amnesty International’s Michael Hayworth has urged Indonesia to abolish the death penalty.
“We know it doesn’t work, it’s cruel and inhumane,” he said.
Mr Hayworth is “incredibly hopeful” the appeals of Chan and Sukumaran, their last avenue for avoiding the death penalty, will succeed.
“These are two men reformed, they are running art classes and studying to be a priest, to take their lives at this stage would be such a waste,” he said.
In 2012, Indonesia sentenced 113 people to death, mostly for drug offences and murder. Last year it was 16.
While Dr Yudhoyono considers clemency for some of those cases, he is also under pressure to advocate for Indonesians sentenced to death overseas.
Among them is the high-profile case of Indonesian migrant worker Satinah binti Jumadi Ahmad, sentenced to beheading in Saudi Arabia for stealing from and killing her employer in 2007.
The president on Wednesday defended his record for protecting Indonesians in trouble abroad, saying his government had secured the release of 176 Indonesians on death row and was seeking to free 246 more.
“So, it’s a big mistake if people say the government does not care,” he told The Jakarta Post newspaper.
Mr Hayworth says Amnesty is also advocating in the case of Satinah, where the message for the Indonesian government is clear.
“If it’s not okay to execute Indonesians in Saudi Arabia, then it shouldn’t be okay to execute Indonesians in Indonesia,” he said.
Amnesty reports Iran and Iraq caused a sharp global spike in the number of executions carried out in 2013, bucking the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty.
Alarming levels of executions – mainly in the two Middle Eastern states – saw close to 100 more people put to death around the world in 2013, a jump of almost 15 per cent on the previous year.