Amnesty International Releases Annual Global Report on the Death Penalty

Earlier this month, Amnesty International released its annual global report, “Death Sentences and Executions 2015.” As the name indicates, the report covers the judicial use of the death penalty throughout the world from January to December 2015.

At least 1,634 people were put to death worldwide in 2015, which 573 more executions than documented in 2014. This startling rise in executions is due to a dramatic increase from three countries: Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It’s important to note this total does not include executions in China, where Amnesty is not able to obtain accurate information.  Amnesty projects the People’s Republic of China executed more than 1,000 people in 2015.

Despite an increase in executions, there were positive changes in 2015. Four countries abolished the death penalty: Madagascar, Fiji, Suriname, and the Republic of Congo. In total, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

With 28 executions, the United States had its lowest number of executions since 1991. Amnesty notes this drop is due in part to legal challenges involving lethal injection drugs and protocols. Even with a drop in executions, the United States continues to be an outlier and remains among the top five executing countries, behind China, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

In terms of executions, the State of Texas is an outlier within an outlier, accounting for 13 of the 28 executions last year. If Texas were its own country, it would be among the top 10 executing jurisdictions in the world.

In 2015, the United States only had 53 new death sentences from 15 jurisdictions. This is the lowest number since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. Although the State of Texas continues to actively carry out executions, it contributed only 3 death sentences to the 53 across the country. This decrease in death sentences indicates a positive trend for abolition in Texas and the United States.

Amnesty International’s Death Sentences and Executions 2015 is available online at: http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/death-sentences-and-executions-2015