Overview of the death penalty worldwide in 2012.

The reported use of the death penalty worldwide increased during 2012, there being at least 743 executions in 18 countries (up from 598 executions in 16 countries).These are reported and verified judicial executions, but there will have been unreported ones in China, North Korea and Yemen. Details of executions are very hard to verify in these countries because of the official secrecy surrounding them.It is also difficult to be certain of numbers for Egypt, as not all executions are reported or confirmed and names are not given.Figures for Iran are also hard to verify, with some websites listing far more executions than those announced in the Iranian media, from which my information comes.A figure of 587 hangings in Iran during 2012 is claimed by the Human Rights Activists New Agency.There has certainly been a significant increase in executions, particularly for drug offences and some may not be reported in the Iranian media.
Quasi judicial executions have taken place in the parts of Afghanistan still controlled by the Taliban and in Somalia controlled by rebel forces but these are excluded from the above figures.

The USA executed 43 men in 9 states during 2012, the same number as in 2011.77 people were sentenced to death in the USA this year, one less than in 2011.

The countries in which verifiable judicial executions took place during 2012 were (method in brackets) :



Abu Dhabi (S)


Afghanistan (H)


America (USA) (LI)


Belarus (S)


Botswana (H)


China (LI + S)


Gambia (S)


India (H)


Iran (H)


Iraq (H)


Japan (H)


Pakistan (H)


Palestine (H)


Saudi Arabia (B)


Somalia (H)


Sudan (Darfur) (H)


Taiwan (S)


Yemen (S)






Beheading (B)

Electric chair (E)

Hanging (H)

Lethal injection (LI)

Shooting (S)





43+ China

22+ China, North Korea, Yemen

For the monthly update of the names, dates and crimes of those executed click here.

Countries with and without the death penalty.
At the end of 2012, 58 countries retain the death penalty, although only 18 of them used it during the year.96 countries have abolished it completely, while a further 44 are abolitionist in practice, having had no executions in the preceding decade. No executions have been reported in Kuwait, Malaysia, Singapore or Vietnam during 2012, all of which retain the death penalty and have prisoners on death row.Singapore has undertaken a review of its laws relating to capital punishment which allow the 32 prisoners on death row to have their cases re-examined.Vietnam switched its execution method from shooting to lethal injection in mid 2011 but has been unable to obtain the necessary drugs to re-start executions and is now announced that it is to produce its own drugs.

Methods used.
Hanging was used for at least 587 executions with 572 men and fifteen women being hanged in nine countries. These being Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Botswana, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Somalia and the Sudan (Darfur). Iraq carried out a record 129 hangings during 2012, including those of five women.
Public and private hangings took place in Iran, all the rest were in private.Iran uses either a short drop or hoists the prisoner into the air with a hydraulic crane jib (used for many public hangings).It is not known what method Afghanistan and Sudan use. The other countries listed gave the prisoner a calculated drop.

Saudi Arabia publicly beheaded 76 men and one woman for murder, rape, kidnapping and drug offences during 2012, up from 73 men and three women in 2012. Saudi Arabia is the only country that uses beheading.

All US executions in 2012 were carried out by lethal injection.China also uses lethal injection, carried out either in purpose built execution chambers or in specially equipped mini-busses. However it appears that shooting has been retained as well and is used for more heinous offenders.Normally the execution method is not reported in China.
Guatemala and Thailand are the only other countries that have used lethal injection and neither carried out an execution in 2012.

Executions by shooting were carried out in Abu Dhabi, Belarus, China, the Gambia, North Korea, Taiwan and in Yemen.Abu Dhabi uses a conventional firing squad whilst Yemen lays the prisoner on the ground and a single executioner shoots them through the heart with an automatic rifle. It is thought that in Belarus, China and Taiwan the executioner fires a single shot to the back of the prisonerís head. It is unknown how North Korea carries out shooting executions. Some provinces in China continue to use shooting which is carried out by a single bullet to the back of the head, but more than half of Chinese provinces have moved to lethal injection.

At least 14 women were reported executed in five countries during 2012. At least 11 women were hanged - five in Iran, five in Iraq and one in Japan. One was beheaded in Saudi Arabia and one each shot in the Gambia and Yemen.At least two women were given lethal injections in China.
Click here for details of females executed in 2012.

There is at least one report of a judicial execution of a juvenile in 2012.On the 3rd of December Yemen executed by shooting Hind al-Barti at the central prison in the capital, Sanaa, for a murder of another girl committed about seven years ago when she was just 15 years old.. It thought that there are juveniles on death row in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Juveniles are defined as persons under 18 at the time the crime was committed who are exempted from the death penalty under International Law.

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