Latest Amnesty International Annual Report on the Death Penalty – Number of Executions Increased

The number of executions documented worldwide in 2021 increased by about 20 percent compared to the previous year. According to annual figures released Tuesday by human rights organization Amnesty International, the death penalty was carried out at least 579 times in 18 countries.

The increase was primarily due to Iran, according to the report. There, the number of executions rose 28 percent from at least 246 in 2020 to at least 314 in 2021. The number of recorded death sentences actually grew by almost 40 percent year-on-year to at least 2052 in 56 countries. The countries with the highest known execution numbers are China, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria, according to Amnesty. The statistics do not include thousands of death sentences that Amnesty International believes were imposed and carried out in China. According to the report, China remained the country where the most executions took place worldwide. Both secrecy in North Korea and Vietnam and limited access to information in other countries would have continued to hinder a full assessment of global developments.

Amnesty International Germany Secretary-General Markus Beeko criticized that the small group of unteachable states “that persist in these cruel and inhumane killings, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, which have greatly expanded state executions in the past year,” for the rise in the number of executions. He added that this trend has continued in the first months of 2022. In March, for example, Saudi Arabia executed 81 people in a single day, he said. The number of executions in Iran was the highest after 2017, with 132 people executed for drug offenses. That represents 42 percent of executions and an increase to nearly five times the 23 executions for that reason in 2020, Amnesty wrote. In Iran, the death penalty has also been used disproportionately against members of ethnic minorities on vague charges such as “enmity to God” and as a means of political repression, Amnesty writes.

One reason cited by Amnesty for the significantly higher numbers of executions in some countries is that restrictions have been fully or partially lifted due to the coronavirus pandemic and alternative procedures have been introduced. These countries included Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Singapore, on the other hand, reported an execution-free year for the second year in a row, it said. in 2022, however, Singapore resumed executions. Despite setbacks, positive developments show that the trend remains toward abolition, Amnesty International reports. Although the overall number of executions increased, the global total remained at historically low levels, it said.