The death penalty, or capital punishment, is among the most contentious and fiercely disputed issues today. Proponents of the death penalty see it as a painful but necessary means to protect society from the most egregious criminals.
Protesters of the death penalty decry the idea, arguing that it has little effect on homicide rates and that it is unjustified in light of how many people are executed after being pardoned after being found guilty of crimes they didn’t commit.
Whether or not a person considers the death sentence ethically acceptable is a matter of personal morality and political ideology.
According to the Death Penalty Information Centre, more than 70 percent of the world’s nations have abolished death punishment in law or practice.
Kazakstan and Papua New Guinea are the two most recent nations to abolish the death sentence as of July 2022, with their laws taking effect on December 29, 2021, and January 22, 2022, respectively. Following suit in 2022, Malaysia is poised to do the same.
More countries are removing or delaying the use of lethal injection.
It is estimated that by the year 2021, 108 countries (and the number is growing) would have abolished capital punishment for all crimes, 144 countries would have done so in law or practice, and 28 countries would have effectively abolished capital punishment by not carrying out any executions in the previous decade, and 55 countries would still have capital punishment for everyday crimes.
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Amnesty International’s 2021 list of countries where the death penalty is legal:
- Legal — Use of the death penalty is permitted by law.
- Suspended — The death penalty is authorized, but no executions have occurred in at least 10 years.
- Only in Extreme Situations — The death sentence is authorized, but it is only used in cases of war crimes.
- Abolished — In all circumstances, the death sentence is outlawed.
|Antigua and Barbuda||legal||Indonesia||legal||Qatar||legal|
|Bahrain||legal||Iraq||legal||Saint Kitts and Nevis||legal|
|Bangladesh||legal||Israel||extreme only||Saint Lucia||legal|
|Barbados||legal||Jamaica||legal||Saint Vincent & Grenadines||legal|
|Burkina Faso||extreme only||Laos||suspended||South Sudan||legal|
|Central African Republic||suspended||Lesotho||legal||Sudan||legal|
|Egypt||legal||Mauritania||suspended||Trinidad and Tobago||legal|
|El Salvador||extreme only||Morocco||suspended||Tunisia||suspended|
|Eritrea||suspended||Niger||suspended||United Arab Emirates||legal|
|Guatemala||extreme only||Papua New Guinea||abolished*||Zimbabwe||legal|
Unofficial and understated death penalty data is common.
According to Amnesty International, many of the study’s statistics are best-guess estimates, and the real numbers of executions, death sentences, and death row convicts are significantly higher than they appear in the report.
Since many nations refuse to provide execution-related statistics, it is hard to accurately quantify executions and death sentences.
Because China is the world’s most prolific executioner, it is well-known for putting to death thousands of individuals each year. Despite this, the details of these executions are deemed a state secret and are not made available to the general public.
As a result, academics can only assume about China’s use of capital punishment, even though it is widely acknowledged that China executes more people than the rest of the world.
As a side note, China isn’t the only country with a problem with data secrecy. Many other nations, such as North Korea, Vietnam, Syria, and Afghanistan, under Taliban administration, conceal or restrict statistics on death punishment (since August 2021).
Furthermore, numerous nations renowned for concealing death penalty statistics are also accused of using the penalty in ways that are illegal under international law.
The death penalty has been used for a wide range of charges, including drug offenses and situations in which the defendants were juvenile, clearly mentally ill, or the proceedings were unjust.
The decreasing usage of the death penalty
According to Amnesty International’s year-end report, more than 579 people were executed throughout the globe in the year ending in 2021.
As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, the number of executions in the United States was 20% greater than it has been since at least 2010. Since its high in 2015, the number of known executions throughout the globe has fallen by more than half.
People condemned to death increased even as the number of nations carrying out executions decreased (18, the lowest number ever recorded). In 2020, 1,477 additional death sentences were handed out, but in 2021, that number climbed to 2,052.
Consequently, there were a total of 28,670 known death row inmates by the year’s conclusion.
In addition, 82% of those detained were located in only nine countries: Iraq (8,800+), Pakistan (3,800+), Nigeria (3,036+), the United States (2,382), Bangladesh (1,800+), Malaysia (1,359), Viet Nam (1,200+), Algeria (1,000+), and Sri Lanka (1,000+).
Countries that Executed the Most People in 2021 (Amnesty International)
- China — 1000+
- Iran — 314+
- Egypt — 83+
- Saudi Arabia — 65
- Syria — 24+
- Somalia — 21+
- Iraq — 17+
- Yemen — 14+
- United States — 11
- South Sudan — 9+
Countries where the death penalty is used as a form of punishment
The Chinese government is still the world’s most prolific executioner, which has not changed. Estimates put the number of people executed in the nation each year somewhere in the thousands.
All death penalty executions in China must be kept secret, unlike in the United States, where death penalty cases are made public and execution dates published. Even the relatives of those who have been executed are sometimes kept in the dark until after the fact.
The death sentence is still carried out by firing squads in China, although other countries have moved away from this practice in favour of more humane and dependable alternatives.
Death via lethal injection is the only alternative method of execution that the Chinese government may lawfully use, which is viewed as more merciful and painless than a gunshot in most other countries.
Getting exact numbers on the number of people executed in Iran is difficult since 88% of the country’s executions are secret. However, according to current projections, there will be at least 246 executions in 2020 or at least 314 in 2021, including at least four kids who were at the time of their crimes.
Aside from this, Iran is commonly accused of eliciting confessions from detainees by torturing them, and the death penalty is routinely cited as an example of disproportionate punishment.
Executions for drug charges will account for 40% of all executions in 2021, while religious offences will account for the remaining 4%.
Following the 2011 revolution, the number of executions in this African nation has skyrocketed, especially under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who took office in 2014.
Executions typically carried out in secrecy following unjust trials and confessions gained via torture, are often used by human rights groups to repress political opposition in Egypt.
Iraq, a country notorious for its too wide and ambiguous anti-terrorism legislation that mandates the death penalty for anyone guilty, is another frequent covert assassin. The death sentence is not reserved for the most heinous offenses in Iraq, as it is in Iran.
Smuggling cars or antiques, theft of official government papers, army desertion, organizing for pimping, and the like are all offenses that may warrant the death sentence.
Convictions in Iraq are often based on confessions gained via torture and other forms of coercion, which is another Iranian-like trait. Hanging is the most common method of execution in Iraq.
Saudi Arabia was the only nation to carry out a beheading execution in 2020, with a reported 27 executions, compared to the preceding five years, when at least 146 individuals were killed each year.
One explanation for the fall in executions is that the monarch refused to carry out any executions when Saudi Arabia was hosting the G-20 summit because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The death penalty has been abolished for drug offenses or crimes committed by minors.
There seems to have been a short-term drop, whatever the underlying cause may have been. It was in March of 2022 that Saudi Arabia aroused worldwide outrage by mass-executing 81 individuals, the country’s greatest mass execution ever.
In common with many other nations with a high rate of executions, the Saudi judicial system is regularly criticized for its lack of openness, propensity to waive defendants’ rights, and reliance on torture to get confessions from suspects.
In Japan, like in China, the execution date is not made public in advance. In addition, the detainees themselves are kept in the dark about the exact time of their executions until a few hours before they are scheduled to take place. Prison authorities tell the public after a prisoner has been executed.
Japanese capital punishment is always via hanging, and the victims are blinded and covered in a hood before the trap door is opened. Between 1993 and 2021, Japan executed 131 Death Row convicts, but just six between 2019 and 2021.
The majority of death penalty cases in Japan are linked to multiple killings. Exceptions to this rule occurred when a single victim was slain, yet the crime was deemed heinous enough to merit the death penalty.
According to the severity of the offense, South Koreans are put to death in several ways. Hanging with a rope is the most common method of execution.
For anyone guilty of crimes against the country’s military, however, execution by firing squad is the only option. This is a brutal and dirty manner of execution that is widely deemed unconstitutional in many nations.
There were sixty persons on South Korea’s death row as of 2021. Despite this high number, South Korea’s last execution took place in 1997. As of this writing, there have been no fatalities among death row inmates due to suicide or sickness.
The United States
Since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976, around 1,543 people have died. Texas will be the state with the most lethal injections by 2021, with 573 scheduled, followed by 116 in Oklahoma and 113 in Virginia.
The United States has been the only nation in the Americas to use the death sentence over the last 12 years (2009-2020).
On July 1, 2021, Virginia will become the latest U.S. state to abolish capital punishment (making it the 23rd overall). The death sentence is now lawful in 27 of the 50 states in the United States as of February 2022.
State governments are responsible for executions in the United States, while the federal government will engage in the practice when required.
There are 629 inmates for every 100,000 people in the United States. This is the equivalent of almost 200,000 inmates in the United States. Most of the country’s death row inmates resided in California (692), Florida (330), and Texas as of January 2022. (199).
As their cases travel through the appeals process and various channels of bureaucracy, death row inmates may wait for years or even decades.
There have been five distinct ways of executing Death Row convicts in the United States since 1976. Lethal injection is the technique of choice for virtually every state’s executions, accounting for the vast majority of all executions. In certain cases, electrocution, deadly gas and hanging are still utilized.