North Korea carried out at least 17 executions last year and several others in the first half of 2014, a global human rights group against death penalty said.
In its latest report, Hands Off Cain, headquartered in Italy, said all the known executions in North Korea in 2013 were conducted by firing squad. In the first six months of this year, at least six people were executed by firing squad, it added.
The group pointed out the reclusive communist nation, like a number of other countries, do not issue official statistics on the practice of the death penalty.
"Therefore the number of executions may, in fact, be much higher," it said.
Hands Off Cain added its data on North Korea were compiled based on media reports. Last December, North Korea's state media said Jang Song-thaek, once a powerful uncle of leader Kim Jong-un, was executed on charges of anti-state activities.
North Korea reduced the number of executions in the 2000s apparently due to international pressure, but the figure has been rising again in recent years, Elisabetta Zamparutti, an official at Hands Off Cain, was quoted as saying by the Voice of America.
The North's young leader Kim Jong-un, who took over power in 2011, appears to be using death penalty as a tool to solidify his power base, added Zamparutti. (Yonhap)