The current state of the death penalty around the world

Amnesty International released its 2016 global review of the death penalty today. Here is a snapshot of executions around the world in the last year.

Global figures

  • At least 1,032 people were executed in 23 countries in 2016. In 2015 Amnesty International recorded 1,634 executions in 25 countries worldwide – a historical spike unmatched since 1989
  • Most executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan – in that order
  • China remained the world’s top executioner – but the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as this data is considered a state secret; the global figure of at least 1,032 excludes the thousands of executions believed to have been carried out in China
  • Excluding China, 87% of all executions took place in just four countries – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.
  • For the first time since 2006, the USA was not one of the five biggest executioners, falling to seventh behind Egypt. The 20 executions in the USA was the lowest in the country since 1991.
  • During 2016, 23 countries  – about one in eight of all countries worldwide  – are known to have carried out executions. This number has decreased significantly from twenty years ago (40 countries carried out executions in 1997).
  • 141 countries worldwide, more than two-thirds, are abolitionist in law or practice.

Death penalty around the globe

Death penalty in numbers

  • Amnesty International recorded 3,117 death sentences in 55 countries in 2016, a significant increase on the total for 2015 (1,998 sentences in 61 countries).
  • At least 18,848 people were on death row at the end of 2016.
  • The following methods of execution were used across the world: beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting. Public executions were carried out in Iran (at least 33) and North Korea.
  • Reports indicated that at least two people who were under 18 at the time of the crime for which they were sentenced to death were executed in 2016 in Iran.
  • In many countries where people were sentenced to death or executed, the proceedings did not meet international fair trial standards. In some cases this included the extraction of “confessions” through torture or other ill-treatment, including in Bahrain, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
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