Death penalty: How many countries still have it?(BBC)

Death penalty: How many countries still have it?

  • 14 October 2018
  • _103835894_chart-abolitionist_countries-yqfte-nc
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Claim: Some 170 States have either abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium on its use.

Verdict: According to Amnesty International in 2017, 142 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

The UN Secretary General António Guterres marked the World Day Against the Death Penalty by praising the efforts of countries to end the practice.

He said “170 States have either abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium on its use.”

A moratorium is an agreement to suspend a policy or action.


So, is he right?

The UN Secretary General’s report on the death penalty presented to the Human Rights Council in September this year says that “some 170 States have abolished or introduced a moratorium on the death penalty either in law or in practice, or have suspended executions for more than 10 years.”

As the UN has 193 members, this implies that 23 states carried out at least one execution in the past decade.

The UN says these figures are compiled from information provided by member states as well as civil society.

However, Amnesty says that 142 countries have either abolished the death penalty in law or in practice and that in the past five years 33 countries have carried out at least one execution.

Amnesty collects its statistics using official figures, media reports and information passed on from individuals sentenced to death and their families and representatives.

Four countries were responsible for 84% of executions in 2017 (Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and Iran). That doesn’t include China, where the statistics are a state secret. Amnesty estimates that China carries out thousands of executions each year.


Methods of execution in 2017 were beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.

The human rights organisation recorded at least 2,591 death sentences in 53 countries in 2017. But in some cases the death sentences will be commuted, where countries are reluctant to enforce the punishment.

According to Amnesty there are:

  • 106 countries where use of the death penalty is not allowed by law
  • 7 countries which permit the death penalty only for serious crimes in exceptional circumstances, such as those committed during times of war
  • 29 countries which have death penalty laws but haven’t executed anyone for at least 10 years, and a policy or more formal commitment not to execute
  • 56 countries which retain death penalty laws and either carry out executions or the authorities have not made an official declaration not to execute

(Amnesty includes five non UN-member countries. Thailand included for an execution carried out in 2018).

The Malaysian government followed the secretary general’s comments with an announcement that it intends to abolish the death penalty.

About 1,200 people are thought to be on death row in Malaysia, where the punishment is given for offences including murder, drug trafficking and treason. The parliament will consider a bill at its next session.

If Malaysia does abolish the death penalty, it would follow Guinea and Mongolia, which ended the practice in 2017. The Gambian president Adama Barrow announced a suspension earlier this year. The Guardian reported that the death penalty was last used in Gambia in 2012.

In June, Burkina Faso’s parliament adopted a new penal code which abolishes the death penalty. At the end of 2017 there were 20 countries which have abolished capital punishment in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to Amnesty.

In total 23 people were executed in the US last year. Washington state became the 20th to ban the death penalty in October 2018. The state’s Supreme Court found that the punishment was applied in an “arbitrary and racially biased manner”.

The number of countries which have formally abolished the death penalty has been steadily increasing, from 48 in 1991 to 106 in 2017. In recent years the number of countries which carry out executions has also gradually declined.

Countries that carried out executions between 2013 and 2017:

Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Botswana, Chad, China, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Taiwan, Thailand (2018), United Arab Emirates, USA, Vietnam and Yemen. (Due to ongoing conflicts in Libya and Syria, Amnesty International is not able to confirm that judicial executions were carried out in these countries).

The 21 countries that did not carry out an execution in those years despite not having abolished the death penalty:

Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guyana, Jamaica, Lebanon, Lesotho, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Zimbabwe. – BBC, 14/10/2018

ADPAN elected into Steering Committee (2019-2021) of World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty had its Annual General Meeting in Brussels at 2pm on 26/2/2019, whereby election for the Steering Committee(2019-2021) was conducted. 25 candidates contested for the 20 Steering Committee positions. ADPAN and 2 members being TAEDP and Reprieve Australia were successful.

The 20 organisations elected are:-
Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN)
Barreau de Paris (ODA)
CMCPM (Moroccan Coalition against Death Penalty)
CTCPM (Tunisian Coalition against Death Penalty)
Colegio de Abogados y Abogadas de Porto Rico (CAAPR)
Comunità di Sant’Egidio
Culture pour la Paix et la Justice (CPJ)
ECPM (Together Against the Death Penalty)
FIACAT (International Federation of ACATs – Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture)
FIDH (Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme)
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI)
Iran Human Rights (IHR)
Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing
Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA)
Reprieve Australia
SYNAFEN (Syndicat National des Agents de la Formation et de l’Education du Niger)
Taïwan Aliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP)
The Advocates for Human Rights (TAHR)
The Death Penalty Project (DPP)
Witness to Innocence (WTI)

7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty – 26/2/2019 – 1/3/2019, Brussels


Many ADPAN members will be participating at the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty that will begin officially on 27th February 2019.

EU Parliament to host conference on abolishing the death penalty




The opening ceremony of the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty will be held in the European Parliament in Brussels on 27 February.

The World Congress Against the Death Penalty, organised by ECPM (Together against the Death Penalty) from 26 February to 1 March, is the world’s leading abolitionist event, and brings together more than 1000 stakeholders from over 140 countries.

The official opening ceremony will take place in the European Parliament’s hemicycle on Wednesday 27 February at 10.00. It will gather MEPs, high-level guests including EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders, and various governmental and civil society representatives to reflect on positive efforts in the abolition movement and address what future work must be done to convince retentionist nations to abolish the death penalty.

The ceremony will also feature a panel of Ministers of Justice from non-abolitionist countries, as well as video messages from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Robert Badinter, former Minister of Justice and a driving force behind the abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981, and Pope Francis.

An exhibition (The Great Witness of Abolition) and sculpture installation (Chaise LXB) will be displayed in the Menuhin Hall in the European Parliament’s Paul-Henri Spaak building from Monday 25 February to Friday 1 March. – Modern Diplomacy