10th October 2009 is the annual ‘World Day Against the Death Penalty.’

It’s a hot topic of debate around the world both with staunch supporters for and strong opposition against. The number of countries currently supporting the death sentence is below 25% and appears to be falling. China has by far the largest figures for execution but the exact number is considered a state secret, this being a familiar trend – although some countries are transparent most are not. Information therefore with regards to exact statistics is unknown and estimates can only be gained in an unofficial capacity some more reliable than others – inside reports from families, witnesses, government mediators and informers, lawyers, victims, various political and medical documents, publications, news and social media phone cameras internet sites and so on. Where the number of executions is unofficial a minimum figure has been used with a + sign. The figures used here are from amnesty.org and handsoffcain.org

1)    Of the world’s population over 60% live in a country with Capital Punishment

2)    In 2008, 26 countries carried out between an estimated 2,393+ executions.

3)    The 5 countries with the highest execution rate and making up 94% of all executions  in 2008 were

  • China 1,718+
  • Iran 346+
  • Saudi Arabia 102+
  • USA 37
  • Pakistan 36+

4)    The methods of execution currently in use are: Beheading – Electrocution – Hanging – Gas Chamber – Stoning – Firing Squad – Shooting – Lethal Injection

Methods of execution the process and who authorizes their use.

5)    With regards to the use of the death penalty countries & territories are categorized into 4 groups:

  • Abolitionist for all crimes – no death penalty by law applies in 95 countries. See List
  • Abolitionist for ordinary crimes – the death penalty may only be considered in exceptional cases applies to 10 countries. See List
  • Abolitionist in practice also known as ‘de facto abolitionist’ – the death penalty is retained in law but no executions have been carried out in the past 10 years, applicable in 35 countries. See List
  • Retentionist – the death penalty is practiced as part of common law and applied in 45 countries. See List

6)    Of the 45 retentionist countries 36 are dictatorial, authoritarian or illiberal states. Of the 10 remaining all are considered liberal democracies including the 6 who carried out executions in 2008 – USA, Japan, Indonesia, Botswana, St Kitts & Nevis and Mongolia.

7)    Some of the most recent moves towards the abolition of capital punishment have been:

  • Japan – on Sept 17, 2009 Capital Punishment was effectively suspended by the newly appointed Minister of Justice Keiko Chiba.
  • Kenya – Aug 03, 09 President Mwai Kibaki commuted all 4000 death sentences in the country to life in prison.
  • Uganda – in January 09 Uganda ruled that all death sentences should be commuted to life.
  • Lagos – Aug 09 commuted all death sentences to life.
  • Countries that abolished the death penalty in 2009 Burundi, Kazakhstan and Togo

8)    Some recent moves away from abolition:

  • St Kitts & Nevis did not carry out any executions for 10 years prior to 2008.
  • Thailand had not executed anyone for 6 years until Aug 24, 2009.

9)    After the handover from British rule to the People’s Republic of China in 1997 Hong Kong & Macau maintained their own legal systems which do not support the death penalty

10) The only country to carry out Capital Punishment in Europe is Belarus they consider the number of executions to be a state secret but it is known that at least 4 were carried out in 2008. The condemned are shot in the back of the head, no information is given to the prisoner or families with regards to the date of the killing – families are informed afterwards to collect belongings and the whereabouts of the bodies remains confidential to officials.

Chart showing all Retentionist countries and executions carried out in 2008 + population figures.

Chart showing retentionist countries last execution.

see also quotes in support of DP and quotes against the DP

Sources: reprieve.org.uk  stopchildexecutions.com  Wikipedia.org  Geography.about.com  stop-stoning.com  deathpenaltyinfo.org