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 23,392 people were under sentence of death worldwide at the end of 2013.”  ACT 50/001/2014, Death sentences and executions in 2013, at 8.

 

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 place the figure at 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:
 

AI                Amnesty International

HRW           Human Rights Watch

DPW           Death Penalty Worldwide

HOC            Hands Off Cain

LDF             NAACP Legal Defense Fund, "Death Row USA"

DPIC           Death Penalty Information Center

BBC             British Broadcasting Corporation

IANS           Indo-Asian News Service

AFP             Agence France-Presse

IPS              Inter Press Service

UN               United Nations sources

 

 

COUNTRY

MOST COMPLETE

AVAILABLE

ESTIMATE

OTHER

ESTIMATE

(BASE)

OTHER

ESTIMATE

(HIGH)

ANNUAL SENTENCES OR EXECUTIONS

Afghanistan

Some 300 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Algeria

 

At least 677 (DPW, 4/11)

 

 

Antigua

7 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Bahamas

3 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Bahrain

 

 

 

 

Bangladesh

At least 1,100 (AI, as of 12/13)

-29 (1071; The Good Morning, 06/14)

 

 

Barbados

8 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Belarus

???

 

 

 

Belize

1 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Benin

13 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Botswana

5 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Brunei

 

 

 

 

Burkina Faso

 

 

 

 

Cameroon

0 (automatic clemency; AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Central African Republic

 

 

 

 

Chad

20 (AI 2005)

 

+15 (around 35; DPW, 06/12)

 

China

???

 

 

Approx. 2400 executions in 2013 (Dui Hua Foundation)

Comoros

 

 

 

 

Congo (DRC)

At least 26 new sentences in 2013 (AI)

 

+174 (around 200 (AI, 2005))

 

Congo (Republic)

 

 

 

 

Cuba

0 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Dominica

0 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Egypt

???

 

 

529 death sentences in March, 2014

Equatorial Guinea

at least 22 (AI 2003)

 

 

 

Eritrea

 

 

 

 

Ethiopia

at least 8 new sentences in 2013 (AI)

 

+127 (135: (DPW estimate, 05/10)

 

Gambia

At least 38 (AI, 8/12)

 

 

 

Ghana

146 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Grenada

0 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Guatemala

0 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Guinea

at least 26 (AI 2009)

 

+8 (at least 34; DPW, 5/12)

 

Guyana

At least 25 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

India

At least 400 (AI 12/13)

 

 +77 (477: BBC News, 12/12)

 

Indonesia

At least 149 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Iran

???

 

+2000 (“thousands awaiting execution”, AI Annual Report 2012)

 

Iraq

1724 (UN, as of  10/14)

 

 

 

Jamaica

2 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Japan

130 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Jordan

40 (AI, as of 12/09)

+34 (74 (DPW 07/12)

 

 

Kazakhstan

 

27 (HOC)

 

 

Kenya

1600 (UN Committee Against Torture, 5/13)

 

 

 

Korea (North)

???

 

 

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

Korea (South)

61 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Kuwait

At least 12 (AI 2008)

 

+8 (approx. 20; DPW, 4/11)

 

Laos

 

At least 89 (DPW, 4/11)

 

 

Lebanon

at least 40 (AI, as of 12/09)

 

+22 (up to 62; DPW, 01/10)

 

Lesotho

At least 1 new sentence in 2013 (AI)

 

 

 

Liberia

 

At least 16 (DPW 02/04/11)

 

 

Libya

at least 18 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

+162 (approx. 180: HRW 2005 prisoner interview)

 

Madagascar

58 (AI 03/12)

 

 

 

Malawi

29 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Malaysia

992 (AI, as of 12/13)

+32 (1022: (Malay Mail, 11/15)

 

 

 

Maldives

18 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Mali

At least 13 new sentences in 2013 (AI)

 

 

 

Mauritania

72 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Mongolia

??? (moratorium in effect)

 

 

 

Morocco

113 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Myanmar

0  (AI, as of 1/14)

 

 

 

Niger

 

 

 

 

Nigeria

1233 (Nigerian Prison Services, 09/13)

 

+206 (1439: Sun News, 11/14)

 

Oman

 

 

 

 

Palestinian Authority

at least 14 new sentences in 2013 (AI)

 

+73 (about 87; DPW estimate, 04/11)

 

Pakistan

At least 8526 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Papua New Guinea

10 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

+3 (about 13: Papua New Guinea Today, 02/15

 

Qatar

at least 27 (AI, as of 12/09)

 

 

 

St. Kitts

1 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

St. Lucia

0 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

St. Vincent

1 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Saudi Arabia

At least 250 (AI, as of 03/12)

 

 

 

Sierra Leone

1 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Singapore

At least 26 (AI 12/13)

 

 

 

Somalia

At least 117 new sentences in 2013 (AI)

 

 

 

Sri Lanka

362  (AI 03/12)

+43 (at least 405; Reuters, 03/14)

 +81 (at least 486, Hiru News, 01/14)

 

Sudan

 

 

300 (HRW 2005)

 

South Sudan

At least 16 sentences in 2013 (AI)

 

 

 

Suriname

0 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Swaziland

6 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Syria

???

 

 

17 executed (AI  03/11)

Taiwan

62 (AI 12/13)

 

 

 

Tajikistan

(moratorium in effect)

0 (DPW 04/11)

 

 

Tanzania

364 (Tanzanian Prisons Services, 10/13)

 

 

 

Thailand

678 (Dept. of Corrections, 11/13)

 

 

 

Tonga

 

 

 

 

Trinidad

At least 39 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Tunisia

At least 5 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

Uganda

420 (AI, as of 06/13)

 

 

 

U.A.E.

???

 

 

At least 16 sentences in 2013 (AI)

USA

3,095 (LDF, 07/13)

 

 

 

Viet Nam

678 (Minister of Public Security, 11/13)

 

 

 

Yemen

???

 

1,000 (HOC)

 

Zambia

??? (332 commuted, 07/15)

 

 

 

Zimbabwe

91 (AI, as of 12/13)

 

 

 

TOTALS

23,242

889

4230

3032

ESTIMATE #1

(columns 1+2)

24131

 

 

 

ESTIMATE #2

(all columns)

31,393

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Clemency: Mass Commutations of Death Sentences

 

COUNTRY

DATE

NUMBER

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: July 20, 2015

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