The world’s top five executioners in 2015 were (from highest to lowest) China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the USA.
— AmnestyInternational (@AmnestyOnline) April 6, 2016
The latest report from human rights NGO Amnesty International contains a painful revelation: more people around the world were executed in 2015 than in any other year since 1989. In fact, 2015 saw a 54% increase in capital punishment from 2014, a year that had 573 fewer executions.
Several states, including China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, continued to sentence people to death for crimes – including drug trafficking, corruption, “adultery” and “blasphemy” – that do not meet the international legal standards of “most serious” to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international law.
According to Amnesty International, at least 1,643 people were executed in 2015 (excluding China). The data indicates that of those 1,643 deaths, 89% occurred in three countries alone: Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Amnesty International notes that figures from China are absent because they are a state secret. The organization believes that thousands are executed there every year.
Amnesty stopped publishing its estimated figures in 2009, challenging the Chinese government to reveal their own figures and demonstrate that they really are limiting their use of the death penalty – something they have claimed to be doing since the country’s highest court began reviewing all death penalty cases in 2007. China remained the world’s top executioner.
For the first time since 2008, Pakistan entered the top five international executioners.
Pakistan continued the state-sanctioned killing spree it embarked on when it lifted a moratorium on civilian executions in December 2014. More than 320 people were sent to the gallows in 2015, the highest number Amnesty International has ever recorded for Pakistan.
Pakistan is a particular worrisome place for Amnesty because of its failure to provide people with a fair trial and commonplace use of evidence supplied through torture.
Iran and Saudia Arabia, as in 2014, were the top two. Saudi Arabia put 76% more people to death since the previous year, killing 156. The country has long been subject to international criticism for its execution methods, which include beheading and crucifixion.
Iran executed at least 977 people, the majority of whom were convicted of only drug sentences.
Iran has also seen at least 73 juvenile executions in the past decade.
“In 2015 governments continued relentlessly to deprive people of their lives on the false premise that the death penalty would make us safer,” said AI Secretary General Salil Shetty.
Egypt and Somalia also was notable spikes in executions.
The total number of countries delivering executions in 2015 grew from 22 in 2014 to 25. Six countries that put no one to death in 2014 had at least one execution in 2015.
“Thankfully, countries that execute belong to a small and increasingly isolated minority,” Shetty noted. “The majority of states have turned their back on the death penalty, and in 2015 four more countries completely removed this barbaric punishment from the laws.”
Mongolia, Fiji, Suriname and Congo all outlawed the death penalty in 2015. The addition of these four to countries that have banned capital punishment has pushed non-executing countries into a majority for the first time in history.
In the United States, Amnesty sees a general decline in executions. There were 28 executions carried out in the U.S. in 2015, which is the lowest since 1991. The U.S. also only imposed 52 death sentences in 2015, the lowest since 1977.
18 U.S. states have now abolished the death penalty with Pennsylvania now imposing a moratorium on all executions.
“Whatever the short-term setbacks, the long-term trend is still clear,” said Shetty. “The world is moving away from the death penalty. The countries that still execute need to realize that they are on the wrong side of history.”
— AmnestyInternational (@AmnestyOnline) April 5, 2016