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Death Sentences and Executions 2020

Author: Amnesty International Research Group 

Affiliation: Amnesty International 

Organization/Publisher: Amnesty International 

Date/Place: April 2, 2021/UK


Type of Literature: Report 

Word Count: 5693

Keywords: Middle East, Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, Vietnam


Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia accounted for 88% of the 483 executions worldwide, according to a report by the human rights group. It accuses them of exhibiting “a ruthless and chilling persistence” when most of the world was attentive to save people’s lives from a fatal pandemic. The global tally was the lowest in a decade, but it did not include China. China is believed to execute thousands of people each year, but the data on its use of the death penalty is a state secret.  Centrality in North Korea and Vietnam also made it dreadful to verify reports from those two countries. The 483 executions in 18 states reported during 2020 signified a decrease of 26% compared to 2019’s 657 executions, and a drop of 70% from a topmost of 1,634 executions in 2015. In the Middle East, the total number dropped from 579 in 2019 to 437 in 2020. That was mainly driven by an 85% drop in chronic executions in Saudi Arabia, where 27 took place, and a 50% reduction in Iraq, which carried out 45. Nevertheless, the report says the declines were outshone by a 300% increase in Egypt, which put 107 people to death and became the world’s third most recurrent executioner. Iran, which commanded 246 executions, endured in second place universally behind China. Amnesty says Iranian authorities have increasingly used the death penalty as “a weapon of political repression” against dissidents, protesters and members of ethnic minority groups.  They also killed three youngsters, below the age of 18, in violation of international humanitarian law. Amnesty alleged Qatar of taking “an alarming step backwards” by functioning its first execution in 20 years. A Nepali man imprisoned for homicide was shot by firing squad last May. A government body in Saudi Arabia accredited the sharp deterioration in executions there in part to “a moratorium on the death penalty in drug-related offences”. However, Amnesty held it might also have been due to a desire by the kingdom to evade denunciation over the issue overshadowing its G20 presidency.  In the US, the Trump administration continued federal executions after a 17-year-long break and placed 10 people to death in under six months. India, Oman, Qatar and Taiwan also resumed executions.

By: Maryam Khan, CIGA Research Associate




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