Amnesty International annual report on death penalty shows rise in documented executions

Amnesty International’s new report on the global use of the death penalty documents at least 883 executions in 20 countries in 2022. 90 percent of the world’s recorded executions were carried out by just three countries in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The number of recorded executions in Iran increased from 314 in 2021 to 576 in 2022. In Saudi Arabia, the number tripled from 65 in 2021 to 196 in 2022. In Egypt, 24 people were executed. Julia Duchrow, Amnesty International’s deputy secretary general in Germany, said, “We are currently witnessing an unprecedented wave of executions in Iran. The UN estimates that a total of at least 209 people have already been executed in Iran this year.”

In some countries, such as China, North Korea and Vietnam, known for frequent use of the death penalty, execution figures have remained secret, so the true scale of executions carried out worldwide is far greater. Although the exact number of people executed in China is not known, there is no doubt that the country continues to carry out thousands of executions each year – ahead of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United States.

While the number of known executions increased significantly from the previous year, the number of death sentences imposed recorded a slight decrease from 2,052 in 2021 to 2,016 in 2022.After interruptions, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Myanmar, Palestine (Gaza Strip), and Singapore resumed death sentences in 2022. In the U.S., the number of executions increased from 11 in the previous year to 18 in 2022.

The number of people executed in connection with drug offenses more than doubled in 2022 compared with 2021. Executions for drug offenses are a violation of international law, which restricts the imposition of the death penalty to “most serious crimes”-that is, crimes that involve intentional killing. Such executions have been recorded in China, Iran (255), Saudi Arabia (57), and Singapore (11). Vietnam is also believed to have had executions for narcotics offenses, though the state keeps the relevant figures secret.

But there were also positive developments: six countries abolished the death penalty in whole or in part in 2022. In Kazakhstan, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic, the death penalty was abolished for all crimes, while in Equatorial Guinea and Zambia it was abolished only for ordinary crimes. By the end of 2022, a total of 112 countries had eradicated the death penalty from their laws for all crimes.

There was another positive development in Liberia and Ghana, with both countries taking legal steps to abolish the death penalty. The authorities of Sri Lanka and the Maldives also announced their intention to refrain from carrying out death sentences in the future. In Malaysia, both houses of parliament have approved bills to abolish the mandatory death penalty.

More and more countries around the world are abandoning the death penalty. In December 2022, at the United Nations General Assembly, an unprecedented 125 UN member states supported a resolution calling for the establishment of a worldwide moratorium on executions with the goal of abolishing the death penalty altogether.

More information:
Amnesty International Global Report – Death Sentences and Executions 2022
Amnesty International – Death Sentences and Executions 2022 – Report in excerpts
Amnesty International – Death Sentences and Executions 2022 – Facts and Figures
Amnesty International – Death Sentences and Executions 2022 – Country overview