Overview of the death penalty worldwide in 2017.


The reported use of the death penalty worldwide increased during 2017, there being at least 965 executions in 20 countries (up from 889 executions in 22 countries in 2016, an 8.5% increase).  These are reported and verified judicial executions, but there will have been unreported ones in China, Iran, North Korea, Vietnam 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.

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.  No further details have been released since.


Iran hanged at least 483 people during 2017, including at least 5 women.  However precise figures are hard to verify, with some websites listing far more executions than those announced in the Iranian media and other reliable sources, 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 and 58 more in 2017. Reporting of executions by the Pakistani media is somewhat patchy.

Kuwait resumed executions on the 25th of January 2017 when three women and four men, including a member of the Royal family were hanged for murder.  The previous executions had taken place in 2013.

Saudi Arabia publicly beheaded 140 men and 1 woman for murder, rape and drug offences during this year. 

28 executions were reported in the Chinese media.  The true figure is unknown and is state secret.  15 took place immediately after public sentencing rallies.

Iraqi executions increased from 88 during 2016, to 125 in 2017 with 42 men being hanged on a single day in September and 38 in December, all for terrorist crimes.  This increase is in response to the fall of ISIS in Iraq and the capture and trial of its members.

The USA executed 23 men in five states during 2017, up from 20 in 2016.  39 people were sentenced to death in the USA this year, up from 30 in 2016.

Bangladesh hanged six men for war crimes and murder. 

Egypt hanged 31 men and 1 woman during 2017 for ordinary murders and terrorist attacks.

Indonesia carried out no executions during 2017.

The countries in which verifiable judicial executions took place during 2017 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)


China (LI + S)


Egypt (H)


Iran (H)


Iraq (H)


Japan (H)


Jordan (H)


Kuwait (H)


Malaysia (H)


Pakistan (H)


Palestine (H & S)


Saudi Arabia (B)


Singapore (H)


Somalia (S)


United Arab Emirates








Beheading (B)

Hanging (H)

Lethal injection (LI)

Shooting (S)




23 + probably 32 in China and also in Vietnam

27 +
unknown for China, North Korea, Yemen

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

Methods used.
737 men and 9 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 longer drop.

Saudi Arabia publicly beheaded 140 men and 1 woman for murder, armed robbery, terrorism and drug offences during 2017.

All of the US executions in 2017 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 Bahrain (3), Belarus (1), Palestine (1), Somalia (19), UAE (1) and the Yemen (2).  It is thought that Belarus uses a single gun shot to the back of the head or neck.  Bahrain, Palestine, Somalia and the UAE use traditional firing squads.  Yemen lies the prisoner on the ground and shoots them in the back with a machine gun.

At least 10 women were executed in four countries during 2017. At least 5 women were hanged in Iran (as many as 10 female executions have been claimed elsewhere). Three were hanged in Kuwait in January.  One was hanged in Egypt for murder.  One woman was beheaded in Saudi Arabia.
Click here for details of females executed in 2017.

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