Death Penalty 2013: Facts and Figures


At least 778 people were executed in 22 countries in 2013. In 2012, Amnesty International reported at least 682 executions in 21 countries worldwide.

Most executions took place in China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, USA and Somalia – in that order.

China executed more people than the rest of the world put together – but the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as data is considered a state secret, and the figure of 778 excludes the thousands of executions carried out in China.

There were stark rises in executions in Iran and Iraq. Iraq put at least 169 people to death, a 30% increase on 2012 (129). In Iran, officially acknowledged executions rose to at least 369 in 2013 – from at least 314 in 2012. But credible sources reported at least another 335 executions, bringing 2013’s total to at least 704.

During 2013, only 22 countries, about one in 10 of all countries worldwide, carried out executions – one more than in 2012, but down almost by a quarter from a decade ago (28 countries executed in 2003).

140 countries worldwide, more than two-thirds, are abolitionist in law or practice.

Commutations or pardons of death sentences were recorded in 32 countries in 2013 – up from 27 in 2012.

At least 1,925 death sentences were recorded in 57 countries in 2013, an increase from the 2012 figures (at least 1,722 death sentences in 58 countries).

At least 23,392 people were on death row at the end of 2013.

In 2013, four countries that had not used the death penalty for long periods carried out executions: Indonesia (first execution in four years), Kuwait (first execution in six years), Nigeria (first execution in seven years) and Viet Nam (first executions in 18 months).

Three countries that executed in 2012 did not carry out any executions in 2013 –Gambia, Pakistan and United Arab Emirates.

The following methods of execution were used across the world: beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.

At least three people were executed in Saudi Arabia for crimes that were allegedly committed when they were under 18 years of age, in violation of international law. There were reports of possible juvenile offenders being executed in Yemen and Iran.

In the majority of countries where people were sentenced to death or executed, the proceedings did not meet international fair trial standards. In some countries this included the extraction of ‘confessions’ through torture or other ill-treatment, for example in Afghanistan, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority (Hamas authorities, Gaza) and Saudi Arabia.

In India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and South Sudan, prisoners were not informed of their forthcoming execution, nor were their lawyers and families. In Botswana, India and Nigeria, and in some cases in Iran and Saudi Arabia, the bodies of executed prisoners were not returned to their families for burial.

Public executions were known to have been carried out in Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

People continued to be sentenced to death and executed for offences that do not meet the “most serious crimes” threshold of “involving intentional killing” as defined in international standards. These offences included drug-related crimes in at least 13 countries in Asia and the Middle East, as well as “adultery” (Saudi Arabia), “blasphemy” (Pakistan), economic crimes (China, North Korea, Viet Nam), rape (Iran, Kuwait, Somalia, UAE) and forms of “aggravated” robbery (Kenya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan).

In North Korea, people were reportedly executed for cannibalism, embezzlement, pornography, escaping to China, corruption, and watching banned videos from South Korea.


At least 64 executions were carried out in five countries, an increase of more than a half from 2012 (41).

This was mainly due to a stark rise in executions in Somalia – at least 34 in 2013, compared to at least six in 2012. 19 of the recorded executions in 2013 took place in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

Nigeria resumed executions, implementing death sentences for the first time since 2006. Four men were hanged in the southern state of Edo in June.

Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan accounted for more than 90% of all executions and two-thirds of all death sentences in the region.


The USA was the only country in the region to carry out executions, 39 in 2013 (four less than in 2012). Only nine states executed in 2013, the same number as in 2012 – the state of Texas alone accounted for 41% of all executions. In May, Maryland became the 18th abolitionist US state.

In Central and Southern America and the Caribbean, a total of 15 death sentences were recorded in four countries, but otherwise the regions were death penalty-free in 2013.

Three countries in the Greater Caribbean – Grenada, Guatemala and Saint Lucia – reported empty death rows for the first time since Amnesty Internationals started keeping records in 1980.


At least 37 executions were carried out in ten countries in the region. This figure does not include the thousands of executions that are believed to have been carried out in China, which executed more people than the rest of the world put together. But the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as data is treated as a state secret.

Indonesia carried out its first executions in four years in November. Five people were put to death in 2013, including two foreign nationals convicted on drug trafficking charges.

Viet Nam resumed executions after an 18 month-hiatus, putting seven people to death by lethal injection during the year.

Singapore continued not to implement death sentences. Pakistan again suspended executions, having put one person to death in 2012.

It was impossible to confirm the real number of executions in North Korea. Reliable reports indicated that at least 70 executions were carried out, but Amnesty International believes the actual figure to be much higher.


The region was an execution-free zone in 2013.

Belarus, the only country to still use the death penalty, did not carry out any executions in 2013, the first year free from executions since 2009. Four death sentences were imposed, some after manifestly unfair trials.


At least 638 executions were carried out in six countries. Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia alone accounted for 95 per cent of all confirmed executions in the region.

It could not be confirmed if executions took place in Egypt or Syria.

Both Iran and Iraq saw alarming rises in executions – see above.

Kuwait resumed executions for the first time since 2007, by hanging five men during the year.

For the first time in three years, the United Arab Emirates did not put anyone to death.