Death Penalty 2018: Dramatic Fall In Global Executions

Amnesty International India
Bangalore / New Delhi: 10 April 2019 12:32 pm

  • Global executions fell by 31%, reaching lowest figure in at least a decade
  • But several countries saw a rise in executions, including Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan and USA
  • India saw the highest number of deathsentences imposed in nearly two decades
  • China remained world’s top executioner, followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam and Iraq

Global executions fell by almost one-third last year to the lowest figure in at least a decade, Amnesty International said in its 2018 global review of the death penalty published today. The statistics assess known executions worldwide except in China, where figures thought to be in their thousands remain classified as a state secret. Execution figures fell globally from at least 993 in 2017 to at least 690 in 2018.

While India did not record any executions in 2018, it saw the highest number of death sentences imposed in nearly two decades. Research by Project 39A at the National Law University, Delhi, indicated that courts in India imposed 162 new death sentences in 2018, including 45 for murder and 58 for murder involving sexual offences. This represented an increase of 50 per cent over the number of death sentences imposed in 2017.

The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2018 was signed into law by the President on 11 August last year. It introduced the death penalty as a discretionary punishment for the rape of girls younger than 12 years of age.

“Worryingly, India continues to expand the scope of the death penalty, despite there being no evidence to show that this cruel punishment acts as a particular deterrent for sexual violence or any other crime,” said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty India.

“Executions will not eradicate violence against women. Too often, politicians in India advocate capital punishment to show their resolve to tackle crime, but ignore more effective solutions like improving investigations and prosecutions. India needs to undertake far-reaching procedural and institutional reforms to curb violence against women and girls.”

Dramatic fall in global executions

Following a change to its anti-narcotics laws, executions in Iran – a country where the use of the death penalty is rife – fell by a staggering 50%. Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia also showed a significant reduction in the number they carried out.

“The dramatic global fall in executions proves that even the most unlikely countries are starting to change their ways and realize the death penalty is not the answer,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“Despite regressive steps from some, the number of executions carried out by several of the worst perpetrators has fallen significantly. This is a hopeful indication that it’s only a matter of time before this cruel punishment is consigned to history, where it belongs.”

Reinstating the death penalty

However, it wasn’t all good news. Amnesty International found increases in executions in Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan and the USA. Thailand carried out its first execution since 2009, while Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena declared he would resume executions after more than 40 years, posting an advert seeking executioners in February 2019.

“The positive news of 2018 has been marred by a small number of states who are shamefully determined to buck the trend,” said Kumi Naidoo.

“Japan, Singapore and South Sudan reported their highest levels of executions in years, and Thailand resumed executions after almost a decade; but these countries now form a dwindling minority. To all the countries that still resort to the death penalty, I challenge you to act boldly and put a stop to this abhorrent punishment now.”

The world’s top executioners

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 classified as a state secret. Amnesty International believes thousands of people are sentenced to death and executed each year.

In an unprecedented move, death penalty figures were made publicly available by authorities in Viet Nam, who reported that at least 85 executions took place in 2018. This tally confirms its place within the world’s top five executing countries: China (1000s), Iran (at least 253), Saudi Arabia (149), Viet Nam (at least 85) and Iraq (at least 52).

Despite a significant decrease in the number of executions it carried out, Iran still accounted for more than one third of executions recorded globally.

Amnesty International was also concerned about a sharp spike in the number of death sentences that were imposed in some countries over the course of the year.

In Iraq, the number quadrupled from at least 65 in 2017, to at least 271 in 2018. In Egypt, the number of death sentences handed down rose by more than 75%, from at least 402 in 2017, to at least 717 in 2018. This rise can be attributed to the Egyptian authorities’ appalling track record of handing out mass death sentences after grossly unfair trials often based on “confessions” obtained under torture and flawed police investigations.

Global trend towards abolition

Overall, 2018’s figures show that the death penalty is firmly in decline, and that effective steps are being taken across the world to end the use of this cruel and inhuman punishment.

During the United Nations General Assembly in December, 121 countries – an unprecedented number – voted to support a global moratorium on the death penalty. Only 35 states voted against it.

“Slowly but steadily, global consensus is building towards ending the use of the death penalty. Amnesty has been campaigning to stop executions around the world for more than 40 years – but with more than 19,000 people still languishing on death row worldwide, the struggle is far from over,” said Kumi Naidoo.

“From Burkina Faso to the US, concrete steps are being taken to abolish the death penalty. Now it’s up to other countries to follow suit. We all want to live in a safe society, but executions are never the solution. With the continued support of people worldwide, we can – and we will – put an end to the death penalty once and for all.

At the end of 2018, 106 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes and 142 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Read our full report here.

For more information please contact:

Nazia Erum
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 9606187741