‘Beheaded for sorcery’: Death penalty 2011

Global report shows sharp rise in executions in Middle East in 2011…


1980 Pulitzer Prize, Spot News Photography, Jahangir Razmi, Iran © cliff1066


A new report into executions across the world in 2011 shows that the number of countries using capital punishment has fallen by a third compared to a decade earlier. Despite this, those that are carrying out death sentences showed a sharp increase in the rate of killings.

The annual global report from Amnesty International reveals a particular increase in the use of the death penalty in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran all leading the way.

People were put to death for offences including sorcery (Saudi Arabia), sodomy and adultery (Iran) and blasphemy (Pakistan).

  • 20 countries carried out executions in 2011, compared to 23 in 2010, with 676 killings compared to 527 a year earlier
  • This figure negates China, which doesn’t release numbers, and is thought to execute more people than the rest of the world combined
  • The rise is executions is largely down to three countries in the Middle East, with 360 deaths in Iran, 82 in Saudi Arabia and 68 in Iraq
  • The United States was the only Western democracy to carry out death sentences, killing 43 people in 2011
  • Most of those executed across the world were either shot or hanged, with some countries also using lethal injection, and Saudi Arabia beheading people
  • Trials of those sentenced to death did not meet international standards of fairness in the majority of countries
  • During 2011 1,923 people were sentenced to death in 63 countries, while 18,750 people were on ‘death row’

Amnesty’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said:

The vast majority of countries have moved away from using the death penalty.

Our message to the leaders of the isolated minority of countries that continue to execute is clear: you are out of step with the rest of the world on this issue and it is time you took steps to end this most cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Even among the small group of countries that executed in 2011, we can see gradual progress. These are small steps but such incremental measures have been shown ultimately to lead to the end of the death penalty.

It is not going to happen overnight but we are determined that we will see the day when the death penalty is consigned to history.