The number of executions documented worldwide rose by around 20 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year – one reason for this is the easing of corona restrictions. According to annual figures published by the human rights organization Amnesty International on Tuesday, at least 579 death sentences have been carried out in 18 countries.

The increase was therefore primarily due to Iran. There, the number of executions rose from at least 246 in 2020 to at least 314 in 2021 – an increase of 28 percent. The number of recorded death sentences even grew by almost 40 percent compared to the previous year to at least 2,052 in 56 countries.

According to Amnesty, the countries with the highest known number of executions are China, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria. The statistics do not include thousands of death sentences that Amnesty International believes were handed down and carried out in China. China remained the country in which the most executions took place worldwide. Both the secrecy in North Korea and Vietnam and the limited access to information in other countries have continued to hamper a full assessment of global developments.

Of the 579 people known to have been executed in 2021, 24 were women (4 percent) – 8 in Egypt, 14 in Iran, and one each in Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The Secretary General of Amnesty International Germany, Markus Beeko, criticized that the small group of incorrigible states “that persist in these cruel and inhumane killings, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, which carry out state executions in the expanded significantly in the last year”. This trend continued in the first months of 2022. In March, Saudi Arabia executed 81 people in a single day.

The number of executions in Iran was the highest since 2017. 132 people were executed for drug-related offenses – 42 percent of executions and a nearly fivefold increase compared to the 23 executions for this reason in 2020, Amnesty writes . In Iran, the death penalty has also been used disproportionately against members of ethnic minorities on vague charges such as “enmity against God” and as a means of political repression, Amnesty writes.

One reason given by Amnesty for the significantly higher number of executions in some countries is that restrictions due to the Covid 19 pandemic have been completely or partially lifted and alternative processes have been introduced. These countries included Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. In Singapore, on the other hand, an execution-free year was reported for the second year in a row.

Amnesty International reports that despite setbacks, positive developments show that the trend is still towards abolition. Although the number of executions increased overall, the global total remained at a historically low level.

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