What Do China, Iran, Saudia Arabia, Somalia, the U.S., and Iraq Have in Common?

According to Amnesty International’s Global Report 2023, these nations carried out the most executions last year.

China is estimated to execute thousands of people annually but classifies the number as a state secret. We can safely assume then that China is the world’s leading executioner.

Excluding China, of the known number of executions in 2023, Iran came in first with at least 853 executions, accounting for 74% of the global total. Saudi Arabia placed second with 172 executions accounting for 15%. Somalia followed with at least 38 executions. The United States came in fourth at 24 executions, and Iraq carried out at least 16. 

The number of executions carried out by these nations and a handful of others, 1153, is the highest number of executions since 2015, but the spike can mostly be attributed to 48% rise in executions in Iran.

If the fact that the U.S. keeps company with nations that our government regularly condemns for human right violations and oppressive policies makes you uncomfortable, then good. It should. The U.S. position on the death penalty impugns our nation’s credibility, particularly as our government chastises others nations for their human rights records while continuing a policy that no other western, industrialized nation employs.

Now for some good news: Only 16 countries carried out executions in 2023. This represents the lowest number of countries executing on record. Even if the U.S. is among this number, it is encouraging that more nations are moving away from the death penalty. In fact, the parliaments of Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, and Zimbabwe all considered abolition bills last year.

Our nation can and must do better. It’s time to keep better company.

Read more of Amnesty’s report.

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