The death penalty in the Middle East and North Africa in 2009

Although the authorities in several states carried out high numbers of executions, in several others - such as Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco/Western Sahara, and Tunisia - governments maintained longstanding moratoriums on executions even though the death penalty remained in force for a range of crimes and death sentences continue to be imposed.

At least 624 executions were known to have been carried out in seven countries in Middle East and North Africa in 2009 as follows: Egypt (at least 5), Iran (at least 388), Iraq (at least 120), Libya (at least 4), Saudi Arabia (at least 69), Syria (at least 8) and Yemen (at least 30).

Iran and Saudi Arabia both executed juvenile offenders, although the use of the death penalty against people convicted of crimes committed when they were under the age of 18 is unequivocally banned in international law. At least seven juvenile offenders were executed in 2009, two in Saudi Arabia and five in Iran.

At least 863 death sentences were known to have been imposed in 15 countries in Middle East and North Africa in 2009 as follows: Algeria (at least 100), Egypt (at least 269), Iran (+), Iraq (at least 366), Jordan (at least 12), Kuwait (at least 3), Libya (+), Morocco/Western Sahara (13), Palestinian Authority (17), Qatar at least (3), Saudi Arabia (at least 11), Syria (at least 7), Tunisia (at least 2), United Arab Emirates (at least 3) and Yemen (at least 53).

Amnesty International recorded 388 executions in Iran. The authorities of the country do not release official statistics on executions, and the true figure is likely to be higher. At least 14 executions took place in public. In one eight-week period between the presidential election on 12 June and the inauguration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a second term as President on 5 August, Amnesty International recorded 112 executions. By contrast, in the five and a half months between 1 January and 12 June, at least 196 executions had taken place.

In Iraq, the authorities carried out at least 120 executions in 2009, overwhelmingly for alleged ‘terrorist’ offences. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki publicly called for the execution of all members of the previous Ba'ath administration of Saddam Hussain, and other Iraqi government ministers also defended the use of the death penalty.

More than 900 people, including 17 women, were thought to be at risk of imminent execution in Iraq at the end of 2009. They had reportedly exhausted all forms of appeal and their death sentences were said to have been ratified by the Presidential Council.

In Saudi Arabia, at least 69 people were publicly beheaded during 2009. At the end of 2009, Amnesty International knew of at least 141 people on death row in Saudi Arabia, including at least 104 foreign nationals, mostly from developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In Yemen, the authorities executed at least 30 prisoners. Hundreds of others were believed to be on death row, including more than 70 people held at Ta'iz Central Prison alone. In Egypt, the authorities carried out at least five executions. In Libya, at least four were carried out.


Death sentences and executions 2009

Where "+" is indicated after a country and is not preceded by a number, it indicates that there were executions or death sentences (at least more than one) in that country but it was not possible to calculate a figure.