The Death Penalty in 2013

Executions rose by almost 15%, compared with 2012. An increasingly isolated group of entrenched executioners, mainly Iraq and Iran, accounted for this sharp spike in executions, bucking the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty.

At least 778 people were executed worldwide. This figure does not include the thousands of people put to death in China, which keeps this data a state secret. Almost 80% of all known executions were recorded in just three countries: Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

In Iran, the already alarming number of executions rose by 18%, with at least 369 people killed according to official records. At least 169 people were executed in Iraq – an increase of more than 30% since 2012 – mainly for vaguely defined terrorism-related offences. Saudi Arabia maintained the same rate as last year, executing at least 79 people, among them three people aged under 18 at the time of their alleged crime.

Four countries resumed executions: Indonesia, Kuwait, Nigeria and Viet Nam, with most hiding their actions under a cloak of secrecy. In 2013, Viet Nam ended an 18-month hiatus when it executed at least seven people by lethal injection.

Continued progress

Despite these setbacks, there was progress towards abolition in all regions. Over the last 20 years, the total number of countries carrying out executions dropped from 37 in 1994 to 22 in 2013.

In Belarus, the last country in Europe and Central Asia to use the death penalty, no executions were reported for the first time since 2009. Maryland became the 18th US state to abolish the death penalty. Pakistan suspended once again its application of the death penalty and for the second consecutive year Singapore did not carry out executions. No executions were recorded in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. And across Africa, many states began reviewing their laws with a view to abolishing the death penalty altogether.

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