The death penalty around the world

Published July 14, 2020
Among the countries that increased their yearly executions were Iraq and Saudi Arabia. — Reuters
Among the countries that increased their yearly executions were Iraq and Saudi Arabia. — Reuters

The United States, where the Supreme Court has allowed the first federal executions in 17 years to proceed, is among the minority of countries to retain the death penalty.

The methods used around the world include beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting, according to Amnesty International, which released its latest report on the subject in 2019.

Here is an overview of the state of the death penalty around the world.


By the end of 2019, 106 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes, and 142 countries had abolished it in law or practice, according to Amnesty.

In March 2020, Colorado became the 22nd US state to abolish the death penalty.

The next month, Chad eliminated an exception for terrorist acts, in effect abolishing the death penalty.

Last year, steps to abolish the death penalty, or pronouncements about doing so, were made by the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Kazakhstan, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Executions in 20 countries

At least 657 executions were known to have taken place globally in 2019, a decrease of five per cent compared to 2018, according to Amnesty.

The figure did not however include the “thousands” of executions believed to have been carried out in China, which keeps such data secret.

Last year's known executions were in 20 countries, with at least 251 recorded in Iran alone.

Excluding China, 86pc of all reported executions took place in just four countries: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt.

Bangladesh and Bahrain resumed executions.

Among the countries that increased their yearly executions were Iraq, which nearly doubled its number to at least 100, and Saudi Arabia, which executed a record 184 people, up from 149 in 2018.

For the eleventh consecutive year, the United States was the only country on the American continent to execute prisoners, putting to death 22 people — three less than in 2018.

Texas remains the leading state for executions in the US, with more than 40pc of all recorded executions in the country being carried out there.

Most death sentences handed out in Pakistan

Amnesty recorded at least 2,307 death sentences were given out in 56 countries in 2019, a decrease of more than 200 from the previous year.

The most deaths sentences were handed out in Pakistan with at least 632, and Egypt with at least 435.

Around the world at least 26,604 people are known to be under a death sentence.


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