The number of times the death penalty was carried out worldwide fell in 2014 compared to the previous year, according to Amnesty International.
In its latest Death Penalty Report the NGO recorded at least 607 executions last year, 22% down on the number for 2013.
However, executions in China are not included in these numbers, as capital punishment data from that country is kept a state secret. Amnesty believes that “thousands” of people are put and sentenced to death every year in China, which alone executes more people than the rest of the world put together.
It is a similar story, although on a smaller scale, in North Korea; Amnesty says it has been impossible to confirm real numbers there but while “credible sources” say at least 50 executions were carried out last year, it believes the actual number to be much higher.
The 607 recorded instances of the death penalty were carried out in 22 countries (see graphic 1 below), with the most occuring in Iran (at least 289), Saudi Arabia (at least 90), Iraq (at least 61) and the USA (35).
Countries that resumed executions in 2014 after carrying out none in 2013
United Arab Emirates
The country that put the most people to death per million inhabitants was by far Equatorial Guinea (11.89 people per million), followed by Iran and Saudi Arabia (see graphic 3 below).
Amnesty notes that the number of countries carrying out the death penalty in 2014 has almost halved since two decades ago (22 compared to 41 in 1995).
Nigeria, Egypt make death sentence figure rise
However, the number of people receiving the death sentence worldwide rose by 28% last year compared to 2013. This increase – from 1,925 recorded cases in 57 countries to at least 2,466 recorded cases in 55 countries – was largely down to large spikes in Egypt and Nigeria, which both responded to internal conflict and political instability with mass sentencing.
“Governments using the death penalty to tackle crime are deluding themselves. There is no evidence that shows the threat of execution is more of a deterrent to crime than any other punishment,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
There is also criticism that too many countries sentence people to death for crimes not deemed “the most serious” by international standards. These include drug offences, adultery while married (United Arab Emirates), blasphemy (Pakistan) and witchcraft and sorcery (Saudi Arabia).
What do you think? Can the Death Penalty be justified in some cases?
Countries that carried out the death penalty in 2014
The countries that executed the most people, 2010-2014
The countries that executed the most people per million inhabitants in 2014
The countries that handed down most death sentences in 2014