Death penalty mapped: The 91 places where capital punishment still exists

Schellenberg: Expert on upholding of death penalty in China

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The death penalty is one of the most controversial topics of modern life. French leader Emmanuel Macron revealed earlier this month he intends to use his upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU to launch a global campaign to abolish capital punishment. A conservative estimate states more than 480 executions were undertaken by 33 political regimes in 2020, but most experts admit this is an “underestimated number”. 

Last year at least 483 people were known to have been executed.

This is the lowest figure recorded by Amnesty International for a decade – with executions falling 26 percent compared to 2019.

A total of 657 deaths were registered as a result of the death penalty in 2019.

The peak number of executions was recorded in 2015 when 1,634 people were confirmed to have died as a result of the death penalty by the international human rights group.

In 2020, the most executions took place in China, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

China was the world’s top executioner according to Amnesty International, but data on the death penalty is classified as a state secret. 

Amnesty International’s 2020 report reads: “China continued to execute and sentence to death thousands of people but kept figures secret.”

The global human rights organisation stopped publishing its estimated figures on the use of the death penalty in China in 2009.

Aside from China, the following four countries accounted for 88 percent of all known executions in 2020.

At least 246 were reported in Iran, 107 in Egypt, 45 in Iran and 27 in Saudi Arabia.

Executions were recorded by Amnesty International in 18 countries, which is two fewer than in 2019.

Elsewhere around the globe, the following number of executions were recorded globally: 

  • The USA: 17
  • Somalia: 11
  • Yemen: Five
  • India: Four
  • Oman: Four
  • Botswana: Three
  • South Suda: Two
  • Bangladesh: Two
  • Qatar: One
  • Taiwan: One
  • Vietnam: Unknown
  • North Korea: Unknown
  • Syria: Unknown.

No executions were known to be enacted in Bahrain, Belarus, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore or Suda, where these countries executed people in the previous two years.

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But which countries still retain laws allowing the death penalty?

According to Amnesty International data published in April 2021, 109 countries had banned the use of the death penalty by law.

In addition, eight countries retain the death penalty only for serious crimes, such as those committed during times of war.

A further 28 countries retain the death penalty in law but have not executed anyone for at least 10 years.

Finally, 55 countries retain the death penalty in law – with just 18 having executed people in 2020.

This means capital punishment “still exists” in 91 countries overall.

There were five different methods of execution enacted in 2020 – the most common methods being hanging and shooting.

These two methods were used in 15 countries.

Lethal injection is the most widely and common method utilised in the USA, but some states also use other techniques included a gas chamber, electrocution, hanging and firing squad.

Beheading with a sword is the predominant form of execution in Saudi Arabia.

At the end of 2020, at least 28,567 people were known to be under sentence of death.

Nine countries held 82 percent of the known totals included: 

  • Iraq: 7,900
  • Pakistan: 4,000
  • Nigeria: 2,700
  • USA: 2,485
  • Bangladesh: 1,800
  • Malaysia: 1,314
  • Vietnam: 1,200
  • Kenya: 1,000
  • Sri Lanka: 1,000.

Amnesty International recorded at least 1,477 death sentences in 54 countries in 2020, a decrease of 36% from the total of 2,307 reported in 2019. 

At least 28,567 people were known to be under sentence of death globally at the end of 2020.

Amnesty International believes the death penalty should be abolished completely as it breaches human rights, in particular the right to life and the right to live free from torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

The organisation said: “The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it.”

However, international law still permits the use of the death penalty for the most serious crimes.

When Amnesty International started its work campaigning to abolish the death penalty around the world in 1977, only 16 countries had completely abolished it.

However, now 108 countries have abolished it, which is more than half the world’s countries. 

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