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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Mapped: The 58 countries that still have the death penalty

Our recent round-up of interesting facts about Belarus - published to coincide with the 25th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union - unearthed some remarkable things.

The country is the booziest on Earth, it gave us Viber, and is home to some of the continent's last remaining bison. It is also the only nation in Europe that retains the death penalty.

As the map on the left shows, every other European country has abolished it (Russia has abolished it in practice, and has not executed anyone since 1996). 

But in Belarus - often dubbed "Europe's last dictatorship" - it continues, with 12 executions taking place in the last seven years and more than 200 since 1990. 


Just four countries considered to be industrialised still execute criminals: 

  • The US
  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan 

The most recent countries to abolish all capital punishment are:

  • Guinea (2016)
  • Nauru (2016)
  • Congo (2015)
  • Suriname (2015)
  • Fiji (2015)
  • Madagascar (2012)
  • Latvia (2012)
  • Gabon (2010)

The 58 countries that have the death penalty

  • Botswana
  • Chad
  • Comoros
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Egypt
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gambia
  • Lesotho
  • Libya
  • Nigeria
  • Somalia
  • Somaliland
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Uganda
  • Zimbabwe
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Cuba
  • Dominica
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States
  • Afghanistan
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • China
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • North Korea
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Malaysia
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palestinian Territories
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • Syria
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • UAE
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Belarus


Total executions in 2015


According to Amnesty International, 25 countries carried out at least 1,630 executions last year.

Nineteen Asian countries:

  • Afghanistan (1)
  • Bangladesh (4)
  • China (exact number unknown)
  • India (1)
  • Indonesia (14)
  • Iran (977+)
  • Iraq (26+)
  • Japan (3)
  • Jordan (2)
  • Malaysia (exact number unknown)
  • North Korea (exact number unknown)
  • Oman (2)
  • Pakistan (326)
  • Saudi Arabia (158+)
  • Singapore (4)
  • Taiwan (6)
  • UAE (1)
  • Vietnam (exact number unknown)
  • Yemen (8+)

Five African countries:

  • Chad (10)
  • Egypt (22+)
  • Somalia (25+)
  • South Sudan (5+)
  • Sudan (3)

One American country: 

  • United States (28)

Source: The Telegraph, Oliver Smith, Travel, Maps and graphics, Sept. 1, 2016

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