Global executions hit decade high in 2023, Report says

The five countries with the highest number of executions in 2023 were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and the USA.
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Global executions soared to their highest number in almost a decade in 2023, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

A total of 1,153 executions took place in 2023, which does not include the thousands believed to have been carried out in China, marking an increase of more than 30% from 2022.

It was the highest figure recorded by Amnesty International since 2015, when 1,634 people were known to have been executed. Despite this increase, the number of countries that carried out executions reached the lowest figure on record with Amnesty International.

According to Amnesty International's annual report on the global use of the death penalty, “The huge spike in recorded executions was primarily down to Iran. The Iranian authorities showed complete disregard for human life and ramped up executions for drug-related offences, further highlighting the discriminatory impact of the death penalty on Iran’s most marginalized and impoverished communities,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

The five countries with the highest number of executions in 2023 were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and the USA. Iran alone accounted for 74% of all recorded executions while Saudi Arabia accounted for 15%. Somalia and the USA carried out an increased number of executions in 2023.

There was a 20% increase in the number of death sentences handed out globally in 2023, taking the total to 2,428.

Setbacks seen across the USA and sub-Saharan Africa

Progress faltered in the USA as executions rose from 18 to 24. Bills to carry out executions by firing squad were introduced in Idaho and Tennessee, while the state assembly of Montana considered a measure to expand the substances used in lethal injections. In South Carolina a new law was signed to conceal the identity of people or entities involved in the preparation or carrying out of executions.

“A select number of US states demonstrated a chilling commitment to the death penalty and a callous intent to invest resources in the taking of human life. Executions via the cruel new method of nitrogen asphyxiation have also come into use with Alabama shamefully using this untested method to kill Kenneth Smith earlier this year, just 14 months after subjecting him to a botched execution attempt,” said Agnès Callamard.

“President Biden must stop delaying his promise to abolish the federal death penalty.”

There were further setbacks elsewhere as recorded death sentences and executions surged in sub-Saharan Africa during 2023. Recorded executions in the region more than tripled from 11 in 2022 to 38 in 2023 and recorded death sentences across sub-Saharan Africa increased sharply by 66%, from 298 in 2022 to 494 in 2023. Furthermore, no country in the region abolished the death penalty in 2023.

At the end of 2023, 112 countries were fully abolitionist and 144 in total had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

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