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The death penalty

World & U.S. death penalty maps.
Countries abandoning the death penalty.

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Status of the death penalty worldwide as of 2012-APR-25:

 Death penalty worldwide 1

Color scheme:
bullet Blue: Abolished for all crimes.

bullet Lime-Green: Abolished for crimes except those committed in exceptional circumstances (e.g. crimes committed in time of war)

bullet Orange: Abolished in practice

bullet Reddish-brown: Legal form of punishment for what are regarded as serious offenses, This includes abandoning the religion of Islam or engaging in same-gender sexual acts in some predominately Islamic countries.

Of the "reddish-brown" states, China is the only one that has a broad range of capital crimes, including tax fraud, minor drug offenses, and non-violent theft.

It is important to realize that capital crimes vary greatly around the world. In some states of the U.S., the death penalty is restricted to multiple murderers. Engaging in pre-marital sex or changing one's religion can be a capital offense in other countries. Same-gender sexual behavior is a capital offense in six predominately Muslim countries.

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Status of the death penalty in the U.S. as of 2012-MAR: 1

US death penalty laws by state 1


bullet Since the map was written, Connecticut has abandoned execution -- the 5th state to do so in 5 years.
bullet Citizens in California will vote on election day 2012-NOV-06 whether to abandon the death penalty.
bullet Blue states have no death penalty statute.
bullet Lime-green states have a death penalty statute but have not executed anyone since 1976.
bullet Reddish-orange states have executed people since 1976.
bullet New York's death penalty was declared unconstitutional in 2004.

bullet The Kansas Supreme Court declared that the death penalty is constitutional by a 5-4 vote on 2006-JUN-26.

bullet New Jersey's legislature abolished the death penalty on 2007-DEC-18 -- the first state in 40 years to do so.

bullet Three addtional states have ended the death penalty since 2007: New Mexico in 2009, Illinois in 2011, and Connecticut in 2012.

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Countries that have executed people during 2007:

bullet Countries with 25 or more executions: Iraq (29), Iran (265), Pakistan (29), Saudi Arabia (156), USA (42). These are all hightly religious countries whose citizens, with the exception of the U.S., enjoy few civil liberties.
bullet Countries with 2 to 25 executions: Afghanistan (15), Bangladesh (6), China (13), Japan (9), North Korea (8), Singapore (2), Somalia (3), Sudan (2), Syria (5), Yemen (7).
bullet Countries with 1 execution: Belarus, Botswana, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kuwait.

Unfortunately the quality of this data is poor because most of the countries that execute people are dictatorships with few human rights; their governments frequently do not release complete or accurate data.

Most countries use mercifully quick methods of killing prisoners. Techniques include hanging victims by first allowing them to free-fall until the rope breaks their neck and kills them, shooting, beheading, lethal injection, and in one case in Tennessee: the electric chair. Only a few predominately Muslim countries are known to execute prisoners by torturing them to death.

bullet In Iran a method that is often used in public hangings involves hoisting the prisoner into the air or removing a box that they are standing on until they eventually strangle to death.

bullet Estimates of the number of stonings in Iran alone vary from 2 to many hundreds during 2007. Here, the victim is immobilized by having their bodies buried up to their neck. Their heads are then pelted with stones until they expire. The stones are sadistically chosen so that they are large enough to inflict considerable damage and pain, yet not large enough to kill the person quickly. 6

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Countries that have recently abolished the death penalty:

As of the end of 2006, 86 countries no longer have the death penalty. This is a increase from 16 in 1977. Only three industrialized democracies still execute people: Japan, South Korea, and most states in the U.S.

Year Abolished death penalty for all crimes Abolished death penalty for ordinary crimes
1976 Portugal Canada
1978 Denmark Spain
1979 Luxembourg, Nicaragua, Norway Brazil, Fiji, Peru
1981 France, Cape Verde  
1982 Netherlands  
1983   Cyprus, El Salvador
1984   Argentina
1985 Australia  
1987 Haiti, Liechtenstein, German Democratic Republic  
1989 Cambodia, New Zealand, Romania, Slovenia  
1990 Andorra, Croatia, Czech & Slovak Federal Republic,Hungary, Ireland, Mozambique, Namibia, São Tomé, Principe Nepal
1991 Slovenia, Croatia  
1992 Angola, Switzerland Paraguay
1993 Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hong Kong  
1994 Italy  
1995 Mauritius, Moldova, Spain South Africa
1996 Belgium  
1998 Bulgaria, Lithuania  
1999 Bermuda  
2000 Poland.  
2001 Chile  
2002 Europe (See note), Serbia, Yugoslavia, Cyprus. Moratorium on executions in the Philippines. Turkey
2003 Kenya has an informal moratorium on executions.  
2004 Turkey  
2005 Mexico, Liberia  
2007 State of New Jersey, Rwanda  
2009 State of New Mexico  
2011 State of Illinois  
2012 State of Connecticut  


bullet Russia and many more countries not listed above retain capital punishment statutes on their books, but have not executed criminals in many years. Kenya, for example, executed its last prisoner on death row in 1984; Russia in 1996. A UN Economic and Social Council report lists the current status of the death penalty in most of the countries of the world. 2
bullet 2000: The state of New Hampshire voted to repeal capital punishment. But governor Jeanne Shaheen (D) vetoed it.

bullet 2002: The 45-member Council of Europe allowed capital punishment in the past, for certain crimes during wartime. Thirty-six members of the council voted to abandon the death penalty at a meeting during 2002-MAY. This became effective on 2003-JUL-4.

bullet 2003:
bullet The government of Kenya had planned to abolish the death penalty in their country by mid-2003, but took no action. 3
bullet "The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has also been lobbying against those  countries who allow executions and have observer status at the Council of Europe. The aim is to abolish their observer status unless they abandoned the death penalty. This would include the United States and Japan. 4

bullet 2004: Taiwan's parliament studied the abolition of the death penalty in 2004 but took no action. 1 The government has promoted abolition, but has not implemented it because public opinion is about 80% in favor of executions. The number of executions has dropped from 32 in 1998 to three in 2004, three in 2005, and none in 2007. 5

bullet 2007:
bullet The United Nations passed a non-binding resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty on 2007-DEC-18. The U.S., supported by Syria, Iran, China and other dictatorships, opposed the resolution.

bullet The State of New Jersey abolished the death penalty, also on DEC-18. They were the first U.S. state to do so in 40 years.

bullet During the year, legislatures in Maryland, Montana, Nebraska and New Mexico debated whether to abolish the death penalty. All rejected the idea.

bullet 2008: The Nebraska legislature debated whether to abandon the death penalty, but decided to retain it.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Image: Death Penalty World Map," Wikipedia, at: This image is posted here under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License You can read a copy of the license at: "Text of the GNU Free Documentation License." We wish you the best of luck understanding the legalese. We have tried several times to make sense out of it without notable success.
  2. "Taiwan moves to abolish death penalty, recognise gay marriages," Radio Australia, 2003-OCT-27, at:
  3. "Status of the international covenants on human rights: Question of the death penalty," UN Economic and Social Council, 1998-JAN-16, at: This lists the current status of the death penalty, worldwide.
  4. "New government eyes abolition of death penalty," The Toronto Star, Toronto ON, 2003-JAN-14.
  5. Rich Chang, "Nation keeps death penalty, but reduces executions." Taipei Times, 2006-JAN-02, at:
  6. Richard Clark, "Overview of the death penalty worldwide in 2007,"  at:

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Navigation: Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Death penalty > here

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Copyright © 1995 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1995-JUN-8
Last updated 2012-AUG-14

Author: B. A. Robinson
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