Overview of the death penalty worldwide in 2016.


The reported use of the death penalty worldwide decreased markedly during 2015, there being at least 889 executions in 22 countries (down from 1368 executions in 19 countries, a 35% decrease).  These are reported and verified judicial executions, but there will have been unreported ones in China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen. Details of executions are very hard to verify in these countries because of the official secrecy surrounding them.  North Korea is omitted because there is no reliable information on executions there.  Sometimes they are reported and then the person executed re-surfaces several months later, apparently still alive.

Malaysia and Nigeria resumed executions in 2016 after several years without any. 
It was reported in February 2017 that Vietnam had executed 429 prisoners between August 2013 and July 2016 at five facilities in Hanoi, HCM City, Nghe An, Son La, and Dak Lak, all by lethal injection.
  The Ministry of Public Security gave no details of those executed.


Iran hanged at least 481 people during 2016, including at least 8 women, down from 747 in 2015.  However precise figures are hard to verify, with some websites listing far more executions than those announced in the Iranian media, from which my information comes.

In March 2015 Pakistan began executions for ordinary murderers in addition to terrorist crimes.  In mid January 2016 it was officially announced that 325 men had been hanged for murder and terrorism in 2015.  A further 73 hangings were recorded during 2016  Reporting of executions by the Pakistani media is somewhat patchy.

Saudi Arabia publicly beheaded 147 men and 3 women for murder, terrorism, rape and drug offences during this year.  Additionally four men were shot for terrorism in the mass execution of 47 men convicted of this crime carried out on the 2nd of January 2016.

The 13 executions in China are those that were reported in the media.  The true figure is unknown and is state secret.

Iraqi executions increased from to 6 in 2015 to 88 during 2016, with 36 men being hanged on a single day in August, all for terrorist crimes.

The USA executed 20 men in five states during 2016, down from 28 in 2015.  30 people were sentenced to death in the USA this year, down from 49 in 2015.

Bangladesh hanged nine men for war crimes and murder.  Botswana and Egypt each hanged 1 man during 2016.

Four executions by shooting were carried out in Belarus for murder and another by the same method in Taiwan.

Indonesia executed four people by firing squad for drug trafficking during 2016, down from 14 in 2015.

The countries in which verifiable judicial executions took place during 2016 are below. (method in brackets)  Quasi judicial executions have taken place in the parts of Iraq and Syria controlled by ISIS and the Taliban and in Somalia controlled by rebel forces but these are excluded from these figures.



Afghanistan (H)


America (USA) (LI)


Bangladesh (H)


Belarus (S)


Botswana (H)


China (LI + S)


Egypt (H)


Indonesia (S)


Iran (H)


Iraq (H)


Japan (H)


Malaysia (H)


Myanmar (S)


Nigeria (H)


Pakistan (H)


Palestine (H & S)


Saudi Arabia (B+4 shot)


Singapore (H)


Somalia (S)


Somaliland (S)


South Sudan (S)


Taiwan (S)






Beheading (B)

Hanging (H)

Lethal injection (LI)

Shooting (S)




20 + at least 13 for China

32 +
unknown for China, North Korea, Yemen

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

Methods used.
666 men and 8 women were hanged in twelve countries, see table above. 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).  Afghanistan also uses the short drop. The other countries listed gave the prisoner a calculated drop.

Saudi Arabia publicly beheaded 147 men and three woman for murder, armed robbery, terrorism and drug offences during 2016, plus four who were shot for terrorism.

All of the US executions in 2016 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.

Executions by shooting were carried out in Belarus, Indonesia, Palestine, Somalia, Somaliland, South Sudan and Taiwan.  It is thought that Belarus and Taiwan use a single gun shot to the back of the head or neck.  Palestine, Somalia, Somaliland and South Sudan use traditional firing squads.

At least 14 women were executed in three countries during 2016. 8 women were hanged in Iran. Three were beheaded in Saudi Arabia. One was shot in Somaliland.  At least two women were executed, presumably by lethal injection, in China.
Click here for details of females executed in 2016.

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