Amnesty’s annual death penalty report for 2021 has just been published
The introduction to the report is reproduced here. The full report is available from this link.
Amnesty International recorded 579 executions in 18 countries in 2021, an increase of 20% from the 483 recorded in 2020. This figure represents the second lowest number of executions recorded by Amnesty International since at least 2010. Most known executions took place in China, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria – in that order.
China remained the world’s leading executioner – but the true extent of its use of the death penalty is unknown as this data is classified as a state secret; the global figures for executions and death sentences therefore exclude the thousands of people that Amnesty International believes to have been sentenced to death and executed in China. Figures for North Korea and Viet Nam, which are believed to have extensively resorted to executions, were also not included in the global executions figure, as secrecy and lack of access to independent information made it impossible to assess trends.
Amnesty International recorded 24 women among the 579 people known to have been executed in 2021 (4%), in the following countries: Egypt (8), Iran (14), Saudi Arabia (1) and USA (1).
Belarus, Japan and UAE resumed executions. Amnesty International did not record any executions in India, Qatar and Taiwan, having done so in 2020.
Iran executed at least 314 people (up from at least 246 in 2020), their highest number of executions since 2017, reversing year-on-year declines since then.
Recorded executions in Saudi Arabia rose sharply, from 27 to 65, an increase of 140% percent.
Despite these increases, the 2021 global executions figure constitutes the second-lowest figure recorded by Amnesty International since at least 2010. For the second consecutive year, the number of countries known to have executed people was the lowest the organization has recorded. In 2019, 2020 and 2021 Amnesty International recorded 657, 483 and 579 executions respectively.
In July, Sierra Leone’s parliament unanimously adopted an Act which abolishes the death penalty for all crimes. Kazakhstan adopted legislation in December abolishing the death penalty for all crimes, which came into effect this year. Papua New Guinea embarked on a national consultation on the death penalty, which resulted in the adoption of an abolition Bill in January 2022, still to come into force. The Government of Malaysia announced that it would table legislative reforms on the death penalty in the third quarter of 2022.
At the end of 2021, more than two thirds of the world’s countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice. 108 countries, a majority of the world’s states, had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes and 144 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice. 55 countries still retained the death penalty.
Amnesty International recorded commutations or pardons of death sentences in 19 countries: Bangladesh, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, UAE, USA, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Amnesty International recorded seven exonerations of people under sentence of death in four countries: Bahrain (1), Kenya (1), USA (2) and Zambia (3).
Amnesty International recorded 2,052 death sentences imposed in 56 countries, up 39% from at least 1,477 in 54 countries in 2020.
Ethiopia, Guyana, Maldives, Oman, Tanzania, and Uganda handed down death sentences having not done so in 2020, while the reverse was true of Bahrain, Comoros, Laos and Niger.
At the end of 2021, at least 28,670 people were known to be under sentence of death. Nine countries held 82% of the known totals: Iraq (8,000+), Pakistan (3,800+), Nigeria (3,036+), USA (2,382), Bangladesh (1,800+), Malaysia (1,359), Viet Nam (1,200+), Algeria (1,000+), Sri Lanka (1,000+).
The following methods of execution were used across the world in 2021: beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.
Four people were executed for crimes that occurred when they were below 18 years of age: in Iran (3) and Yemen (1). Amnesty International believes that other people in this category remained on death row in Maldives, Myanmar and Iran.
At least 134 executions for drug-related offences were known to have been carried out in two countries (China and Iran), an increase of 346% from 2020 (30). Information on Viet Nam, which is very likely to have carried out such executions, was unavailable.
Death sentences were known to have been imposed after proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards in countries including Algeria, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Egypt, Iran, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Singapore and Yemen.
The Salisbury group collects information from around the world and publishes a report each month. The most recent report can be accessed here and others by searching the site or via a search engine.