Iran and Iraq's ruthless increase in using the death penalty led to a sharp spike in the global number of executions in 2013, according to a new Amnesty International report.

There was 15% increase in the death penalty in 2013 compared to the previous year according to the human rights group, BBC reported Thursday.

China stays the global leader in executions; exact figures are unreported, but estimations state that over a thousand are put to death in the communist state annually, meaning China kills more under the death penalty than the rest of the world combined.

Outside of China, 778 executions were reported worldwide, up form 682 in 2012. The largest offender was Iran, where 369 were killed, followed by Iraq where 169 were put to death.

Iran's trend of public executions has continued unchecked in 2014. In the first 21 days of the new year over 40 death penalties were carried out, making a rate of two a day.

Among those killed, an Arab-Iranian poet and human rights activist was executed in late January for being an "enemy of G-d." Video in February captured the desperate struggle under the gallows of one condemned man, after his request to say goodbye to his mother was refused.

"The virtual killing sprees we saw in countries like Iran and Iraq were shameful," said Salil Shetty, Secretary-General of Amnesty International. "Only a small number of countries carried out the vast majority of these senseless state-sponsored killings.

The Hamas government in Gaza has also used the death penalty, hanging one man charged of "collaboration" with Israel last December, and hanging two others last July for the same charges.

"Death penalty becoming thing of the past"

However, Shetty stated that "the long-term trend is clear - the death penalty is becoming a thing of the past." Rogue states like Iran and Iraq "can't undo the overall progress already made towards abolition" of the death penalty, according to Shetty.

Amnesty International noted that the death penalty has decreased in the last 20 years, with many countries that carried out the penalty in 2012 stopping in 2013, such as Gambia, the United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan.

Europe and Central Asia were reportedly free of executions for the first time since 2009, after Belarus joined the list of those no longer executing.