The Economist reported recently that the global total of executions is continuing to fall, and the long-term trend towards abolition is ongoing.
Since December, three countries — Figi, Madagascar, and Suriname — have joined the more than 100 nations that have abolished the death penalty. Another 40 countries have the death penalty still on the books but do not use it in practice. In December, the number of countries voting to support a United Nations resolution in favor of an international moratorium on executions jumped dramatically to 177.
Against the global trend are Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, which are increasing executions, and Nigeria and Egypt, where death sentences are on the rise, although the article points out most of these sentences are not likely to be carried out.
Even the U.S. and China are seeing reductions in death sentences and executions. Of the 31 states in the U.S. that still have the death penalty, half have not executed anyone since 2010, and this year Nebraska became the 19th state to abolish the death penalty. The percentage of Americans who said they endorse the death penalty in principle is down from 80 percent in 1994 to less than 60 percent today.
In China, the world’s leading executioner, the number of executions is a state secret, but human rights organizations estimate that there has been a significant decrease in the last few years.
Chinese professor Zhao Bingzhi recently acknowledged that “abolition is an inevitable international tide and trend, as well as a signal showing the broad-mindedness of civilised countries.” It is now, he added, “an international obligation.”