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Amnesty International Releases Annual Report on the Death Penalty Worldwide in 2020

Amnesty International recently released its annual Global Report: Death Sentences and Executions 2020, which updates key figures on the use of capital punishment worldwide. Overall, executions and death sentences dropped significantly worldwide in 2020. The United States continued to be the only Western country to carry out executions. While COVID-19 created notable obstacles for executions, the virus also killed many who were confined and neglected while imprisoned on death row. 


In 2020, 483 individuals were executed (excluding China, where information on executions remains a state secret). This represents a 26% decrease from 2019 and the lowest number of executions recorded by Amnesty in the past decade. According to the report, there was a 36% decrease in death sentences worldwide, from 2,307 in 2019 to 1,477 in 2020. Methods used for executions across the globe include beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.

Five countries account for the vast majority of global executions: China; Iran; Egypt; Iraq; and Saudi Arabia. Although China withholds data on capital punishment, experts estimate several thousands were executed in 2020. Excluding China, the four other countries represented 88% of the total executions last year. Compared to 2019, Egypt increased executions by 71%, Iraq decreased them by 55%, and Saudi Arabia saw an 85% decrease. Of the 483 individuals executed in 2020, 16 were women (3%). Iran accounted for nine of the women killed, followed by Egypt (4), Saudi Arabia (2), and Oman (1). 

United States

For 12 consecutive years, the United States has been the only country in the Americas to execute individuals. Trinidad and Tobago is the only other country in the region to impose death sentences. U.S. executions in 2020 declined by 23% from 2019. Of the 17 executions last year, 7 were conducted by states and 10 by the U.S. Federal government. Death sentences last year decreased by 49% compared with 2019. 

A select few counties and states enact most of the executions and death sentences in the United States. Texas carried out three executions in 2020, more than any other state. Issues with lethal injections caused delays in executions in several states, although Tennessee officials used the electric chair to carry out their sole execution in 2020.

The Amnesty International report can be found here.