The Death Penalty Worldwide: Estimated Death Row Populations

 

 

Data compiled by:
Mark Warren
Human Rights Research
Almonte, Ontario
Canada

 

Overview
 

Although the United Nations and numerous non-governmental organizations monitor and research the use of the death penalty worldwide, one basic question remains unanswered: how many people are under sentence of death around the world?  When it was first developed several years ago, this chart was the first known attempt to provide a tentative answer to that difficult question.  It is based on regularly updated data from many sources, including official statistics, research by human rights organizations and media reports.  However, it represents no more than a rough estimate: accurate data for those countries that apply the death penalty with the greatest frequency is often incomplete or unavailable. In all likelihood, the actual figure for the global death row population is significantly higher than the highest estimate in the chart.


For comparison, Amnesty International reports that: “At least 19,336 people were known to be under sentence of death globally at the end of 2018,” while noting that for several countries where “a high number of prisoners were under sentence of death, figures were not available or it was impossible to estimate an adequate number.” Death Sentences and Executions in 2018 (ACT 50/9870/2019) .

 

In many parts of the world, the use of the death penalty is shrouded in secrecy.  Some of the most active executing nations release no official statistics on executions, death sentencing or death row populations (e.g., China, Saudi Arabia, Iran).  In other retentionist countries, any information on the use of the death penalty is treated as a state secret.

   

For example, it is highly likely that China carries out more executions than the rest of the world combined; unofficial estimates have place the figure as high as 2,400 executions annually. Chinese courts can also impose a suspended death sentence, in which the execution is deferred for several years and may later be commuted altogether. Until recently, most death sentences in China were reviewed only by regional courts and it is unclear whether there is a centralized registry of death sentences and dispositions.  Ongoing judicial reforms may ultimately result in a more accurate picture of the death penalty in China, but for the time being, any estimates of the death row population in that country can be little better than guesswork. 

 

Where no figures are available for nations believed to have significant death row populations, I have used very conservative estimates based on the total death sentences reportedly imposed or carried out in a recent year.

 

Although a number of nations with large death row populations have recently abolished the death penalty entirely (notably Rwanda and Kyrgyzstan), several other countries are in a transitional stage in which the number of death sentences imposed annually greatly exceeds the number of executions or commutations.  As a consequence, condemned prisoner populations in those nations are growing rapidly and inmates remain under sentence of death for many years—exacerbating the effects of the “death row phenomenon” (the cruel and degrading consequences of prolonged incarceration under sentence of death).  

 

In a number of other countries (such as Algeria), many death sentences are still imposed each year even though a de facto moratorium on executions remains in effect. This legal logjam helps to explain the paradox of a global death row population explosion at a time when the actual use of the death penalty worldwide is in sharp decline. 

 


 

Methodology: 
 

The initial data set was compiled between September of 2004 and March of 2006.  Totals reflect the most current estimates available and are updated regularly.

 

Figures in column 1 represent the most reliable and comprehensive data available, typically recent reports from Amnesty International or other human rights NGOs that have conducted original research.
 

Figures in column 2 are the lowest reported total from any reasonably credible source, including incomplete estimates.
 

Figures in column 3 are the highest reported total from any recorded source.
 

Figures in column 4 represent either the annual death sentencing or execution rate, where estimates of the total death row population are not available.
 

Column 1 entries as ??? indicate nations believed to have large numbers of death row inmates, but for which no reliable data on the total death row population is available.
 

Legend:
 

AFP            Agence France-Presse

AI                Amnesty International

BBC            British Broadcasting Corporation

DHF            Dui Hua Foundation 

DPIC           Death Penalty Information Center

DPW           Death Penalty Worldwide

HOC            Hands Off Cain

HRW           Human Rights Watch

IANS           Indo-Asian News Service

IPS              Inter Press Service

LDF             NAACP Legal Defense Fund

UN               United Nations sources

 

 

COUNTRY

MOST COMPLETE

AVAILABLE

ESTIMATE

OTHER

ESTIMATE

(BASE)

OTHER

ESTIMATE

(HIGH)

ANNUAL SENTENCES OR EXECUTIONS

Afghanistan

At least 343 (AI,12/18)

 

 

 

Algeria

 

At least 1070 (DPW 04/18)

 

Antigua

0

 

 

 

Bahamas

0

 

 

 

Bahrain

At least 20 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Bangladesh

At least 1500 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Barbados

10 (AI,12/18)

 

 

 

Belarus

At least 2 (AI, 02/18)

 

 

 

Belize

0 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Benin

0 (all commuted, 02/18)

 

 

 

Botswana

5 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Brunei

 

 

At least 1 (DPW, 04/18)

 

Burkina Faso

12 (AI, 12/17)

 

 

 

Cameroon

235 (AI 12/17)

 

 

Central African Republic

No data

 

 

 

Chad

At least 4 (AI 12/18)

+33 (around 37; DPW, 12/15)

 

China

???

 

 

Approx. 2000 executions in 2016 (DHF)

Comoros

7 (AI, 12/17)

 

 

 

Congo (DRC)

At least 41 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

Cuba

0 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Dominica

0 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Egypt

???

At least 717 new sentences in 2018 (AI)

 

Equatorial Guinea

2 (AI, 12/17)

(temporary moratorium?)

 

 

 

Eritrea

No data

 

 

 

Ethiopia

10 (AI, 12/17)

 

 

Gambia

22 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Ghana

172 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Grenada

1 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Guatemala

0 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Guinea

At least 8 (AI, 12/18)

(moratorium)

 

 

Guyana

26 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

India

371 (AI 12/18)

 

 

Indonesia

At least 308 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Iran

???

At least 92 juvenile offenders (AI, 02/18)

+2000 (“thousands remained on death row”, AI Annual Report 2017-18)

 

Iraq

At least 285 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Israel

0 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Jamaica

0 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Japan

116 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Jordan

At least 16 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

Kazakhstan

1 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

Kenya

At least 158 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Korea (North)

???

 

 

At least 70 executions in 2013 (AI, 12/13)

Korea (South)

61 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Kuwait

At least 34 new death sentences in 2018 (AI)

 

Laos

315 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

Lebanon

5 new death sentences in 2018, no reported executions (AI)

At least 166 (DPW, 05/18)

 

Lesotho

2 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Liberia

 

At least 14 (DPW 05/18)

 

Libya

at least 45 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

Malawi

15 (AI,12/18)

 

 

 

Malaysia

1275 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Maldives

15 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Mali

81(AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Mauritania

115 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Morocco

93 (AI, as of 12/18)

 

 

 

Myanmar

 

At least 9 new sentences in 2018 (AI, 12/18)

 

Niger

 

At least 11 (DPW, 12/17)

 

Nigeria

At least 2000 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Oman

 

At least 4 new sentences in 2018(AI)

 

 

Palestinian Authority

at least 33 (AI, 12/17)

At least 13 new sentences in 2018 (AI)

 

Pakistan

At least 4864 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Papua New Guinea

20 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Qatar

4 (AI, 12/16)

 

 

 

St. Kitts

0 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

St. Lucia

0 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

St. Vincent

1 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Saudi Arabia

At least 46 (AI, 12/18)

At least 4 new sentences in 2018 (AI)

 

 

Sierra Leone

42 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Singapore

At least 40 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Somalia

At least 139 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Sri Lanka

At least 1299  (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Sudan

At least 109 (AI, 12/18)

 

South Sudan

At least 345 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

Swaziland (Eswatini)

1 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Syria

???

 

 

20 new sentences in 2015 (AI, 12/15)

Taiwan

42 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Tajikistan

0 (moratorium in effect)

 

 

Tanzania

At least 500 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Thailand

551(AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Tonga

0 (AI, 12/17)

 

 

 

Trinidad

42 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Tunisia

At least 89 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Uganda

145 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

U.A.E.

???

At least 10 new sentences in 2018 (AI)

 

USA

2721 (LDF, 10/18)

 

 

 

Viet Nam

At least 600 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Yemen

At least 18 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

Zambia

At least 252 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

Zimbabwe

At least 81 (AI, 12/18)

 

 

 

TOTALS

19,676

888

3295

2090

ESTIMATE #1

(columns 1+2)

20,564

 

 

 

ESTIMATE #2

(all columns)

25,949

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Clemency: Mass Commutations of Death Sentences

 

COUNTRY

DATE

NUMBER

Zimbabwe

February 2019

34

Benin

March 2018

14 (all)

Sri Lanka

February 2017

60

Kenya

October 2016

2747 (all)

Sri Lanka

May 2016

70

Sri Lanka

April 2016

83

Sri Lanka

February 2016

34

Zambia

July 2015

332

Ghana

July 2014

21

Myanmar

January 2014

35? (all)

Ghana

July 2013

33

Zambia

May 2013

113

Tunisia

January 2012

240 (all)

USA (Illinois)

March 2011

15 (all)

Ethiopia

June 2011

23

Myanmar

May 2011

All (reported as 657)

Bangladesh

September 2010

20

India

September 2010

14

Tanzania

November 2009

75

Nigeria (Lagos State)

August 2009

40

Kenya

August 2009

Over 4,000 (all)

Ghana

January 2009

approx. 500

Zambia

January 2009

53

Cuba

April 2008

 approx. 50

USA (New Jersey)

December 2007

8 (all)

Zambia

August 2007

 97

Congo

August 2007

17 (all?)

Morocco

March 2007

14

Nigeria

October 2006

107

Tanzania

August 2006

approx. 400

Philippines

April 2006

approx. 1,237-1,280 (all)

Malawi

April 2004

79

Zambia

Feb.-May 2004

59

Ghana

June 2003

179

Kenya

February 2003

223

USA (Illinois)

January 2003

167 (all)

Pakistan

July 2002

74 juveniles

Philippines

December 2002

105

Russia

June 1999

716 (all)

 

 

Page last updated: April 11, 2019

Back to home page