Why Are Global Executions On The Rise?

In some states, executions are performed through lethal injection.
In some states, executions are performed through lethal injection.

Why Are Global Executions On The Rise?

In 2015, the world witnessed a remarkable rise in executions worldwide. According to Amnesty International, more people were put to death that year than at any other time since 1989. Its review of the use of death penalty by various countries found that 1,634 people were executed in 2015, a 50% increase than the previous year. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were responsible for 89% of death sentences.

The figure does not include North Korea or China, where records are kept secret. China remains the world’s topmost executioner and Amnesty fears thousands were likely killed in 2015. Though the watch group added that the number of executions seemed to have actually decreased in recent years, China’s secrecy around death penalties made that impossible to verify.

Worst Offenders

According to the Guardian, the world’s top five executioners are Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and the United States. The first three resorted to executions at never-before levels, often after unfair trials. Iran put to death around 977 people in 2015 compared to 743 the year before. The overwhelming majority of executions were for drug-related crimes. Among the people put to death in 2015, four were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, violating international law.

Pakistan maintained what Amnesty called a ‘state-sanctioned killing spree’, which started after it lifted its seven-year moratorium on civilian executions in 2014. At the least, 326 people were sentenced to be hanged, the highest total Amnesty has ever recorded for the country. Pakistan also awards capital punishment for crimes like blasphemy and murder.

Saudi Arabia put 158 prisoners to death in 2015, a rise of 76% over the previous year. Most were beheaded, although others were killed by firing squads. Sometimes the bodies were displayed in public. The fifth-highest executioner in 2015 was the United States. Ironically however, the total of 28 deaths was the country’s lowest in 24 years.

Increased Security Threats

There were remarkable increases in the use of death penalties in other countries including Egypt and Somalia, who executed 22 and 25 prisoners respectively. In another development, at least six countries, which had not put anyone to death in 2014, had resorted to capital punishment in 2015 including Chad, who put 10 people to death. For Indonesia, the toll was 14.

Amnesty’s death penalty expert Chiara Sangiorgo told CNN that terrorism-related security threats and the general global unrest is a leading factor in the rise of executions. Many governments respond to these threats at the cost of human rights. Amnesty’s secretary-General, Salil Shetty lamented the rise in global executions and called for the ‘slaughter’ to end. “Not for the last 25 years have so many people been put to death by states around the world”, he added.

On the positive side, Amnesty International also found that a majority of the world’s nations had abolished the death penalty, confirming the long-term trend towards making laws more humane. In fact Madagascar, Fiji, the Republic of Congo, Suriname and Mongolia outlawed the death penalty in 2015.


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