Iran pushes increase in global executions in 2023

AFP protest in Berlin on January 27, 2024AFP

Rising executions in Iran have sparked protests around the world

The number of executions recorded globally in 2023 was the highest in eight years, as some Middle Eastern states dramatically increased their use of the death penalty, Amnesty International says.

A total of 1,153 people are known to have been executed in 16 countries, more than 30% more than in 2022, the group says in its annual report.

Iran alone carried out 74% of those executions, intensifying its use of the death penalty for drug crimes, while Saudi Arabia accounted for 15%.

The figures exclude China, which is believed to execute thousands of people each year.

“Due to state secrecy, Amnesty’s data does not include the thousands of people believed to have been executed in China, which remains the world’s leading executioner,” the organization said.

“Similarly, Amnesty was unable to present figures for North Korea and Vietnam, countries believed to resort to executions widely.”

The total was the highest annual figure recorded by Amnesty since 2015, when 1,634 people were known to have been executed.

Amnesty says Iran executed at least 853 people last year, up from 576 in 2022 and 314 in 2021. More than half of the 2023 executions were for drug-related crimes.

Despite a rise in executions around the world, the number of countries executing people was the lowest ever, Amnesty said. No executions were recorded in Belarus, Japan, Myanmar or South Sudan, countries that carried out death sentences in 2022.

“The huge increase in recorded executions was mainly due to Iran,” said Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard.

“Iranian authorities showed complete disregard for human life and increased executions for drug-related crimes, further highlighting the discriminatory impact of the death penalty on Iran’s most marginalized and impoverished communities.”

By contrast, Pakistan last year repealed the death penalty for drug crimes, while Malaysia abolished the mandatory death penalty.

Elsewhere in Asia, Sri Lankan authorities confirmed that the president had no intention of signing execution orders, allaying fears that he might execute people again.

Amnesty also highlighted figures from the United States, the only developed Western country where capital punishment still appears in its statutes.

Executions in the United States last year increased from 18 to 24 in 2022. Bills to carry out executions by firing squad were introduced in Idaho and Tennessee, while the Montana state Assembly considered a measure to expand the range of substances used in lethal injections.

A new law was signed in South Carolina to conceal the identity of people or entities involved in preparing or carrying out executions.

And earlier this year, the state of Alabama held its first run using nitrogen gas – a method described by Amnesty’s Ms Callamard as “cruel” and “untested”.

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

Leave a Comment