The human rights organization Amnesty International has recorded a worrying increase in executions and death sentences in the past year. One country is particularly in focus.

The number of executions documented worldwide rose by around 20 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year – one reason for this is the easing of corona restrictions.

According to annual figures from the human rights organization Amnesty International, the death penalty was carried out at least 579 times in 18 countries. The increase was therefore primarily due to Iran. There, the number of executions rose from at least 246 in 2020 to at least 314 in 2021 – an increase of 28 percent. The number of recorded death sentences even grew by almost 40 percent compared to the previous year to at least 2,052 in 56 countries.

According to Amnesty, the countries with the highest known number of executions are China, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria. The statistics do not include thousands of death sentences that Amnesty International believes were handed down and carried out in China. China remained the country in which the most executions took place worldwide. Both the secrecy in North Korea and Vietnam and the limited access to information in other countries have continued to hamper a full assessment of global developments.

Of the 579 people known to have been executed in 2021, 24 were women (4 percent) – 8 in Egypt, 14 in Iran, and one each in Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Amnesty: Responsibility lies with a few unteachable states

The Secretary General of Amnesty International Germany, Markus Beeko, criticized that the small group of incorrigible states that continue to carry out these cruel and inhumane killings, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, which carry out state executions in the have expanded significantly in the last year”. This trend continued in the first months of 2022. In March, Saudi Arabia executed 81 people in a single day.

The number of executions in Iran was the highest since 2017. 132 people were executed for drug-related offenses – 42 percent of executions and a nearly fivefold increase compared to the 23 executions for this reason in 2020, Amnesty writes . In Iran, the death penalty has also been used disproportionately against members of ethnic minorities on vague charges such as “enmity against God” and as a means of political repression, Amnesty writes.

The overall trend is towards abolition

One reason given by Amnesty for the significantly higher number of executions in some countries is that restrictions due to the Covid 19 pandemic have been completely or partially lifted and alternative processes have been introduced. These countries included Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. In Singapore, on the other hand, an execution-free year was reported for the second year in a row.

Amnesty International reports that despite setbacks, positive developments show that the trend is still towards abolition. Although the number of executions increased overall, the global total remained at a historically low level.

Other findings from the report

No executions are known from India, Qatar and Taiwan – none of the countries that had executed people in the previous year. After an interruption of several years, three countries have resumed executions: Belarus and Japan had their first executions since 2019, and the United Arab Emirates their first since 2017.

In the US, people were executed in Mississippi and Oklahoma for the first time since 2012 and 2015 respectively. The US government imposed a temporary moratorium on federal executions in July. 2021 marked the lowest number of executions in the US since 1988.

There have been significant increases in the number of executions in Somalia (from at least 11 in 2020 to at least 21 in 2021), in South Sudan (from at least two in 2020 to at least nine in 2021) and in Yemen (from at least five in 2020). to at least 14 in 2021), Amnesty writes.

Amnesty International observed a 22 per cent fall in the number of executions (at least 83) in Egypt. As recently as 2020, the number of executions in the country had tripled to at least 107. At the same time, Amnesty writes that the death penalty continued to be used extensively in Egypt in 2021. This was also done on the basis of statements extracted through torture and through mass executions. Egypt was one of the ten main recipient countries of German arms exports last year.

In Iraq, the number fell 62 percent, from at least 45 in 2020 to at least 17 in 2021. In the US, the number fell 35 percent, to 17 in 2020 and 11 in 2021.

According to the organization, the number of known executions in Saudi Arabia has more than doubled from 27 to 65. Syria executed 24 people in a mass execution in October 2021. This put the state fifth in the world for the number of executions in the country.

Amnesty International reports an alarming increase in the use of the death penalty under martial law in Myanmar. Almost 90 people were arbitrarily sentenced to death, several in absentia. This is generally seen as a measure against political opponents and protesters.