Amnesty International: Executions soar to the highest number in almost a decade

Amnesty International said in its latest report that "executions soar to the highest number in almost a decade."

Amnesty International released its annual report on the global use of the death penalty, and said that "executions soared to their highest number in almost a decade in 2023 with a sharp rise across the Middle East." 

A total of 1,153 executions took place in 2023, which does not include the thousands believed to have been carried out in China, marking an increase of more than 30% from 2022. It was the highest figure recorded by Amnesty International since 2015, when 1,634 people were known to have been executed. Despite this increase, the number of countries that carried out executions reached the lowest figure on record with Amnesty International.

"The huge spike in recorded executions was primarily down to Iran. The Iranian authorities showed complete disregard for human life and ramped up executions for drug-related offences, further highlighting the discriminatory impact of the death penalty on Iran’s most marginalized and impoverished communities," said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

Callamard also said that "despite the setbacks that we have seen this year, particularly in the Middle East, countries that are still carrying out executions are increasingly isolated. Our campaigning against this abhorrent punishment works. We will continue until we have put an end to the death penalty."

The five countries with the highest number of executions in 2023 were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and the USA. Iran alone accounted for 74% of all recorded executions while Saudi Arabia accounted for 15%. Somalia and the USA carried out an increased number of executions in 2023.

There was a 20% increase in the number of death sentences handed out globally in 2023, taking the total to 2,428.

In Iran, the authorities intensified their use of the death penalty to instil fear in the population and tighten their grip on power, carrying out executions across the country. At least 853 people were executed, marking a 48% rise from 576 in 2022. The executions disproportionately impacted Iran’s Baluchi ethnic minority who accounted for 20% of recorded executions even though they make up around 5% of Iran’s population. At least 24 women and at least five people who were children at the time of the crime were executed.