UCA News
Contribute

Global hike in executions alarming, says Amnesty

Together Iran and Saudi Arabia were responsible for 89 percent of global death sentences last year, rights group says
A demonstrator holds a picture of Iranian-German Jamshid Sharmahd (left), who was sentenced to death in Iran, with his daughter Gazelle Sharmahd during a demonstration for his release in front of the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin on July 31, 2023. Iran conducted over 853 executions last year.

A demonstrator holds a picture of Iranian-German Jamshid Sharmahd (left), who was sentenced to death in Iran, with his daughter Gazelle Sharmahd during a demonstration for his release in front of the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin on July 31, 2023. Iran conducted over 853 executions last year. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 29, 2024 09:11 AM GMT
Updated: May 29, 2024 10:07 AM GMT

Global rights group Amnesty International has expressed concern after its report revealed a sharp increase in the number of executions carried out globally in 2023.

In its report titled "Death Sentences and Executions 2023,” released on May 29, Amnesty revealed that 1,153 executions took place in 2023, a 31 percent increase on the 883 known cases in 2022.

The 2023 figures are the highest recorded since 2015 when the total number of known executions recorded was 1,634, Amnesty said in the 46-page report published on its website.

“The huge spike in recorded executions was primarily due to Iran,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General.

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

China (data unavailable), Iran (more than 853), Saudi Arabia (172), Somalia (more than 38), and the United States (24) were among the top five nations with the highest number of executions in 2023.

Iran alone accounted for 74 percent of all recorded executions while Saudi Arabia accounted for 15 percent. These two countries were responsible for 89 percent of the known total.

Callamard added that countries still carrying out executions are “increasingly isolated,” and Amnesty’s campaign against the death penalty and executions was working.

“We will continue until we have put an end to the death penalty,” Callamard added.

Amnesty alleged that China topped the chart as the world’s lead executioner. However, exact numbers were unavailable as data on executions has been classified as a state secret as per Chinese law.

A similar issue was observed in the case of North Korea and Vietnam “where secrecy made an accurate determination impossible,” Amnesty said.

The report noted that Japan and Myanmar had not conducted any executions in 2023 in contrast to some reported cases in 2022.

Executions in Singapore increased from five in 2022 to 11 in 2023, which were all for drug trafficking, and included the first woman known to be executed in 20 years, Amnesty said.

Iran, which had 853 recorded executions in 2023, accounted for 80 percent of known executions reported among the Middle East and North African (MENA) nations.

“Of the 853 recorded executions in Iran, at least 545 were unlawfully carried out for acts that should not result in the death penalty under international law,” Amnesty said.

The number of known executions in the MENA region rose above 1,000 for the “second time in a decade,” the rights group added.

Compared to 2022, recorded executions fell in Egypt (24 to 8); Kuwait (7 to 5), and Saudi Arabia (196 to 172).

There was a 20 percent increase in the number of death sentences handed out globally in 2023, taking the total to 2,428, in comparison to 2,016 in 2022, Amnesty said.

“The 2023 total was the highest total on record since 2018 when 2,531 new death sentences were known to have been imposed,” Amnesty added.

The Asia Pacific region had 948 new death sentences imposed which represented a 10 percent rise compared to 2022 when at least 861 people were known to have been sentenced to death.

The increase was mostly linked to the higher number of death sentences recorded for Bangladesh (248 in 2023 versus 169 in 2022); and Sri Lanka (40 in 2023 versus eight in 2022), among other nations.

This included Thailand, where official figures received by Amnesty pointed to an increase of 18 percent from 104 in 2022 to 123 in 2023.

Pakistan imposed nine new death sentences for “blasphemy,” an act that does not constitute a cognizable criminal offense complying with requirements under international human rights law, Amnesty said.

Amnesty noted that there was progress towards the abolition of the death penalty on a global scale.

In Pakistan and Malaysia, the death penalty for drug-related offenses and the mandatory death penalty were repealed, respectively, Amnesty said.

Callamard said that the inherent discrimination and arbitrariness that marks the use of the death penalty have only compounded the human rights violations of our criminal justice systems.

“The small minority of countries that insist on using it must move with the times and abolish the punishment once and for all,” Callamard said.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Trafficking is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, only outdone by drugs and arms trafficking, and is the fastest-growing crime today.
Victims come from every continent and are trafficked within and to every continent. Asia is notorious as a hotbed of trafficking.
In this series, UCA News introduces our readers to this problem, its victims, and the efforts of those who shine the light of the Gospel on what the Vatican calls “these varied and brutal denials of human dignity.”
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
Publisher
UCA News
Asian Bishops
Latest News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia