Which countries still have the death penalty – and who executes the most prisoners?

China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia execute the highest number of people

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The Independent Online

China and Iran are responsible for the highest number of executions in the world, according statistics from Amnesty International. 

Although official data is unavailable, Amnesty International estimates there to have been thousands of executions in China. Iran follows China with 977 executions in 2015. 

Pakistan comes third, having executed 326 people in 2015, followed by Saudi Arabia, which executed 158 people in the same year. The US is fifth, having executed 25 people last year.

This chart by Statista shows the top 10 countries for executions in 2015. A separate map shows the countries which still have the death penalty.


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the death penalty a cruel and inhumane practice in his message for this year's World Day against the Death Penalty, observed on Monday.

“It has no place in the 21st century,” Mr Ban stressed in his message. UN statistics say 65 countries retain the death penalty for terrorism-related offences.

"To be legitimate and effective, counter-terror measures, like all security operations, must be anchored in respect for human rights and the rule of law," Mr Ban added.

“Let us be clear: participation in peaceful protests and criticism of a government – whether in private, on the Internet, or in the media – are neither crimes nor terrorist acts.

“The threat or use of the death penalty in such cases is an egregious violation of human rights."

The Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte recently called for the death penalty to be reinstated in his country, claiming the growth of atheism and agnosticism means people have a lack of fear and respect for the law.

Following the military coup d'etat in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was preparing to bring back capital punishment, saying: "My nation wants the death penalty."

Since the uprising, tens of thousand of people have been detained or arrested.

James Lynch, Deputy Director of the Global Issues Programme at Amnesty International, said: “The increase we are seeing in the use of the death penalty as a flawed response to terrorism-related crimes betrays a fundamental mistake on the part of authorities – there is no evidence that the death penalty deters violent crime more effectively than other punishments. It is borne out of weakness and expediency rather than strength."

He added: “Violent attacks against the general population cause horrendous suffering to victims and their families and can never be justified. Governments must investigate and bring those responsible to justice.

“But state-sanctioned killing does not tackle the root causes of violent attacks. Instead, it simply compounds injustice and suffering and drives the cycle of violence, without delivering justice to the victims. 

“The death penalty is always a violation of human rights. More than two thirds of the world’s states have chosen to abolish it in law or practice. All governments should follow suit.”