One Country Imposed 74% of 2023's Known Executions

With China excluded, Iran led the world last year, according to Amnesty International
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2024 3:20 PM CDT
Updated Jun 2, 2024 12:20 PM CDT
One Country Carried Out 74% of 2023's Known Executions
This photo provided by the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows the state's death chamber in Columbia, SC, including the electric chair, right, and a firing squad chair, left.   (South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP, File)

The number of executions carried out around the world jumped to an eight-year high in 2023, largely due to a single country, according to Amnesty International. Though the number of countries delivering death penalties fell to an all-time low of 16, Amnesty logged at least 1,153 executions last year, for a 30% increase over 2022, reports the BBC. Of those executions, 853—that's 74%—were carried out by the government of Iran. "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," said Amnesty's Secretary General Agnès Callamard, per Time.

Iran's executions jumped 48%, up from 576 in 2022 and 314 in 2021. Amnesty notes 20% of 2023 death penalties were given to people of the Baluchi ethnic minority, who make up just 5% of the population. At least 545 executions are thought to have violated international law. About 50% of those were due to drug-related charges, for which the death penalty is considered unlawful under international human rights law, Amnesty said. China is the world's true lead executioner, thought to execute thousands of people each year, according to Amnesty. But it was not included in the report because its number are kept secret. "Similarly, Amnesty was unable to put forward figures for North Korea and Vietnam, countries believed to resort to executions extensively," the report said.

After Iran, Saudi Arabia had the second highest number of executions at 172, representing 15% of the global tally. The US was third with 24 executions, six more than in 2022. The 2023 tally was the highest globally since 2015, when at least 1,634 executions were carried out, per the BBC. However, the number of countries delivering death penalties was the lowest to date, as Belarus, Japan, Myanmar, and South Sudan refrained from executions, unlike in 2022. The US is "the only Western developed country where capital punishment is still on the statute book," the BBC notes. "President Biden must stop delaying his promise to abolish the federal death penalty," Callamard said. (More execution stories.)

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