Recorded executions in 2022 reached the highest figure recorded globally in five years.
A total of 883 people were known to have been executed across 20 countries — this is a rise of 53% since 2021. This spike in executions, which does not include the thousands believed to have been carried out in China last year, was led by countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Executions resumed in five countries in 2022 — Afghanistan, Kuwait, Myanmar, the State of Palestine and Singapore — while an increase in executions was also recorded for Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the USA.
Close to 40% of all known executions were for drug-related offences. Importantly, it’s often those from disadvantaged backgrounds that are disproportionately affected.
“It’s time for governments and the UN to up the pressure on those responsible for these blatant human rights violations and ensure international safeguards are put in place.”Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General
Australia and the Asia Pacific region
In Asia-Pacific, eight countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Myanmar, North Korea, Singapore and Vietnam) are known to have carried out executions in 2022, an increase from five countries in 2021.
The number of new death sentences recorded regionally increased by 5% from 819 in 2021 to 861 in 2022.
As a global leader in the fight against the death penalty, Australia must bring a new level of commitment and focus, especially in the Asia Pacific region and towards countries resuming and increasing executions.Rose Kulak, Amnesty International Australia Campaigner
The use of the death penalty remained shrouded in secrecy in several countries, including China, North Korea, and Vietnam — countries that are known to use the death penalty extensively — meaning that the true global figure is far higher. While the precise number of those killed in China is unknown, it’s clear that the country remained the world’s most prolific executioner, ahead of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the USA.
A glimmer of hope towards global abolition
In 1977, when Amnesty International started campaigning against the death penalty, only 16 countries had abolished it. Now, there are 112 countries who have abolished it from their laws and another 32 countries who no longer perform executions.
In 2022, the world continued to move away from the death penalty and only a minority of countries – that are increasingly becoming isolated – actively used the punishment.
The recorded increases in 2022 should act as a warning that it is not yet time to let off pressure. A world without the death penalty is within reach, but fight for it must continue.
Find out more about Amnesty International Australia’s campaign to end the death penalty and how you can help save lives today. Together, we can keep up the momentum for the global abolition of the death penalty.
Join our Human Rights Defenders program to help us abolish the death penalty.