The number of judicial executions recorded globally in 2022 reached the highest figure in five years, according to Amnesty International’s annual review of the death penalty, released Monday.
Excluding the untold thousands believed to have taken place in China, a total of 883 executions were recorded across 20 countries, marking a 53% increase from the previous year. The Middle East and North Africa region saw a significant rise in executions, with Saudi Arabia executing 81 people in a single day and Iran executing a record-high 576 individuals. Three countries in the region, including Egypt, accounted for 90% of known executions outside of China. The true global figure is likely much higher due to secrecy surrounding the use of the death penalty in certain countries. China remained the world’s most prolific executioner.
The organization revealed that the bulk of known executions in 2022 were concentrated in five countries. China topped the list with thousands of executions, followed by Iran with at least 576, Saudi Arabia with 196, Egypt with 24, and the US with 18 recorded executions. The Middle East and North Africa region accounted for 93% of known global executions, excluding those in China. Notably, Saudi Arabia recorded the highest yearly total in 30 years with 196 executions.
There were also positive developments from a death-penalty abolitionist perspective in 2022, the report said. Six countries — Kazakhstan, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, and Zambia — abolished or partially abolished the death penalty for various crimes. The United Nations General Assembly also saw an unprecedented number of member states supporting the adoption of a biennial resolution calling for a moratorium on executions and the eventual abolition of the death penalty. Close to two-thirds of UN member states, including Ghana, Liberia, and Myanmar, voted in favor of the resolution, indicating growing global support for the rejection of the death penalty as a lawful punishment.
The report cited Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema as having said in May 2022 of his government’s moves to shift away from capital punishment:
“We have commuted the sentences of 30 of those who are on death row to life imprisonment. [Zambia’s government] has taken a decision, a big decision, to end the death penalty in our country. We will work with Parliament to run through this process as we transition away from the death penalty and focus on the preservation [and] rehabilitation of life while still delivering justice for all.”