The death penalty in Middle East and North Africa in 2008

Dr. Mohammed Al-Tarawneh talks about the death penalty in Jordan

© Amnesty International

The region with the second highest number (21 per cent) of executions in 2008 was the Middle East and North Africa.

The following nine countries were known to have carried out a total of at least 508 executions: Iran (at least 346), Saudi Arabia (at least 102), Iraq (at least 34), Yemen (at least 13), Libya (at least 8), Egypt (at least 2), Bahrain 1, Syria (at least 1) and the United Arab Emirates (at least 1).

The following 10 countries are known to have sentenced a total of at least 609 people to death: Iraq (at least 285), Algeria (at least 200), Egypt (at least 87), Jordan (at least 14), Syria (at least 7), Kuwait (at least 6), Libya (+), Morocco/Western Sahara (at least 4), Iran (+), Saudi Arabia (+).

No executions have been carried out for some years in Algeria, Morocco/Western Sahara and by the Palestinian Authority.

Amnesty International remained concerned about the application of the death penalty in Iran. The methods used to execute at least 346 people in 2008 included stoning and hanging. The number of public hangings in Iran decreased in 2008 after the Chief Justice issued a decree banning them.

In 2008, the authorities in Iran proposed to widen further the already wide scope of application of the death penalty. A new law was passed that allows the application of the death penalty against people convicted of illegal audiovisual activities (pornography). A proposed law prescribing the death penalty for apostasy, heresy and witchcraft and for certain internet-related crimes that “promote corruption and apostasy” was being drafted in 2008.

The sharp increase in executions in Saudi Arabia that commenced in 2007 continued into 2008. There were at least 102 executions – at an average rate of two executions every week. In Saudi Arabia, prisoners are sentenced in largely secret and unfair trials and defendants, particularly poor migrant workers from countries in Africa and Asia, often have no defence lawyer and are unable to follow court proceedings in Arabic.

Death sentences and executions in 2008 – developments around the worldwide application of the death penalty in 2008.