Apr 21, 2021 | Human Rights in the World | HRWF

Four of the top five countries at a global level – excluding China, which does not provide official data – to preform executions last year are in the Middle East.

Amnesty International ‘s latest report reveals that 88% of the total executions worldwide in 2020 took place in Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Tehran, moreover, is the first in the world for people executed in relation to the population.

The global figure of executed death sentences is the lowest in the last decade. However, the numbers do not include the executions in China, where there are thousands of annual executions and the use of capital punishment is widespread, but the figures remain state secrets.

According to the activist group, there is a “ruthless and chilling persistence” of executions in the Middle East, in spite of the global Covid-19 pandemic which for the first months of last year had resulted in a partial reduction.

Analyzing the data, the overall number fell from 579 in 2019 to 437 in 2020. Among the countries that recorded the most consistent decline, Saudi Arabia with a minus 85% (27 in total) and in Iraq with a reduction of 50% (45 executions).

However, the decline in some countries is overshadowed by the 300% increase recorded in Egypt, which executed 107 people in one year, becoming the third nation in the world. Of these, at least 23 were convicted of crimes related to “political violence” within unfair trials and with “confessions” extrapolated by force, combined with other psychological and physical abuse and harassment.

Iran, with at least 246 official executions, is the second nation in the world behind China, whose numbers remain unknown. For activists, Tehran adopts an increasing use of the death penalty as a “weapon of political repression” against dissidents, protesters and members of minorities.