Number of executions in 2023 highest in nearly a decade - Amnesty

The 1,153 known executions that took place last year were the most recorded by the global rights monitor since 2015.

02 Jun 2024 05:02pm
Photo for illustration purpose only. - File photo by AFP
Photo for illustration purpose only. - File photo by AFP
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LONDON - Executions around the world rose to their highest number in nearly a decade in 2023, with a sharp rise in the Middle East, Amnesty International said.

The 1,153 known executions that took place last year were the most recorded by the global rights monitor since 2015 -- and a more than 30-per cent increase on 2022.

Despite this, the number of countries that carried out executions was the lowest on record, according to the UK-headquartered NGO.

The figures did not include the "thousands of people" allegedly executed in China, as well as other executions believed to have taken place in North Korea and Vietnam, where there was a lack of data.

"The lowest number of countries on record carried out the highest number of known executions in close to a decade," Amnesty said in its annual report on the subject.

It attributed this to the "alarming" spike in executions in Iran, where numbers spiked nearly 50 per cent annually.

Iranian authorities "ramped up executions for drug-related offences", with the penalty disproportionately affecting marginalised communities, Amnesty's global chief Agnes Callamard said.

China, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and the United States made up the other four countries with the highest number of executions last year.

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The report also noted a 20-per cent increase in the number of death sentences handed out globally.

However, the figures showed only 16 countries recorded executions -- an all-time low.

Pakistan repealed the death penalty for drug-related crimes and Malaysia abolished the mandatory death penalty for a range of offences.

'Chilling commitment'

In the United States, executions rose for the second consecutive year, from 18 to 24.

Five states carried out the executions, all using lethal injection.

The report pointed to the introduction of bills to execute by firing squad in two US states and a new law in South Carolina to conceal the identity of those involved in carrying out executions.

"A select number of US states demonstrated a chilling commitment to the death penalty," Callamard said.

Twenty-three US states have completely abolished the death sentence and another 14 have not carried out executions for at least a decade.

"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", Callamard added.

"The small minority of countries that insist on using it must move with the times and abolish the punishment once and for all." - AFP