"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Capital punishment around the world

Public hanging in Iran: Medieval and barbaric punishments
While the number of executions worldwide is decreasing, some countries are continuing to execute hundreds of prisoners every year.

Executions worldwide are down almost 22 % to 607, according to a recent Amnesty International report, but that figure excludes China which maintains strict secrecy on its death penalty figures.

It is estimated more than 19,000 people are on death row worldwide.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed at least 17 Australians could face the death penalty for alleged crimes committed in other countries.

22 countries executed prisoners in 2014, though that's just more than 1/2 the number that executed prisoners 20 years ago.

The 5 countries with the highest rates of executions are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United States. 

#TalkAboutIt takes a closer look at the top 5 and Indonesia, where Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are on death row for drug smuggling.


China executes more prisoners than the rest of the world combined, according to Amnesty International, which believes the number executed is around 2,466.

But the organisation said due to state secrets the true figure of executions is not known.

China executes by lethal injection or firing squad.

Drug-related crimes accounted for 8 % of executions, while economic-related crimes accounted for 15 %.

China's "strike hard" campaign to act tough on terrorism resulted in 21 executions between June and August 2014 in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, home to the large, mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority.

An Australian man has been sentenced to death for drug smuggling, but that could be commuted to life.

Meanwhile, Australian-New Zealand dual national Peter Gardner remains in a Chinese jail and could face a death penalty over drug smuggling allegations.

A spokesperson from New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said consular staff from the country's Consulate-General in Guangzhou are continuing to provide consular advice and check on Mr Gardner's well-being.


More than 289 people were executed in Iran in 2014, but Amnesty International believes as many as 454 more were killed.

Public hanging is Iran's most common form of capital punishment, despite a 2008 moratorium on public executions.

Under some circumstances, those sentenced are flogged before they are hanged.

Crimes punishable by death include murder, terrorism-related offences, rape, robbery, kidnapping, burglary, drug offences such as trafficking, economic crimes, adultery, apostasy, homosexuality, treason and espionage, according to Cornell University.

Stoning is also a legal method of execution for adultery in Iran and is overwhelmingly inflicted on women.

Women are buried up to their shoulders but men only up to their waists.

Stones are hurled at them until they die or escape the pit. The condemned are spared if they free themselves before dying.

Iran has the world's highest rate of execution by stoning, though the practice is gaining popularity in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

Iranian human rights lawyer Shadi Sadr said most stonings take place in secret, at prisons, in the desert or during early mornings in cemeteries.

Iran's Islamic Penal Code, adopted in 2013, does not prohibit stoning and permits punishment prescribed by Sharia law, which includes stoning.

The UN harshly condemns the practice.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia executed at least 90 people in 2014, including 2 women.

Beheading in public using a sword is the most common form of execution in the country.

Shooting prisoners via firing squad is also used.

Death penalty crimes include adultery, blasphemy, fornication, homosexuality and sorcery.

Stoning is also a legal method of execution for adultery in Saudi Arabia, as in Iran.


Iraq put at least 61 prisoners to death in 2014, with hanging being the preferred method of execution.

In Iraq, prisoners can be hung for war crimes, treason, espionage, military offences, drug offences, rape, kidnapping, murder and aggravated murder.

United States

The United States executed 35 death row inmates in 2014, down from 39 in 2013, all through lethal injection.

It is the only Western democracy in the top 10 executing nations.

Capital punishment is legal in 32 states, but only 7 states put prisoners to death in 2014, with most executions conducted in the southern states including Texas, Florida and Oklahoma.

All of those executed in 2014 had been on death row for 8 years or more.

7 states have not conducted executions for a decade.

The crimes punishable by death vary from state to state, but 1st-degree murder and treason are the primary crimes.

The state of Washington has an official moratorium on executions.

Lethal injection remains the preferred method of execution across the country.

However there is currently a shortage, impacted by a ban on EU countries supplying the necessary components.

The worst year to date for botched executions by lethal injection in the United States was 2014.

Electrocution remains an option for 8 states. Tennessee uses the electric chair if the lethal drugs are not available for injection.

Gas chamber, hanging and firing squad are backup options for some states where lethal injection is not a possibility.

About 150 people have been exonerated since 1973.


The firing squad is the preferred method of execution in Indonesia.

In December 2014, Indonesia resumed executions for drug-related offences under the new leadership of president Joko Widodo.

Within Mr Widodo's 1st 100 days of office, 6 prisoners were executed.

If the president maintains his hardline stance on drug crimes, about 40 more foreign citizens on death row could be executed.

At the end of 2014, 64 out of 130 death row prisoners were due to be killed for drug trafficking.

A number of crimes are punishable by death including murder, terrorism, robbery, treason, economic crimes, espionage and war crimes.

Source: abc.net.au, April 6, 2015

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