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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

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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