Death Sentences and Executions: Facts and Figures 2014 

According to Amnesty International, 607 people were executed in 2014 in 22 countries. An additional 2,466 people were sentenced to death. This Silk explores the worldwide use of the death penalty in 2014 by using figures from Amnesty International’s latest annual report

Top Findings 

1. The years 1996, 2001, 2004, and 2008 witnessed the sharpest increases in both death sentences and executions. 

2. In 2014, the recorded number of executions decreased by 22%, compared to 2013.

3. China, once again, remains the world’s top executioner and issuer of the death penalty. 

According to Amnesty International, as of December 2014, there are an estimated 98 countries that are abolitionist for all crimes; 7 that are abolitionist for ordinary crimes; 35 that are only abolitionist in practice; 140 that are abolitionist in law or practice; and 58 that are retentionist.  A detailed list for the countries in the above categories can be found in the report.

Unfortunately, "many countries' governments do not publish information on their use of the death penalty, making confirmation of the use challenging." However, despite lack of information on countries such as Belarus, China, Eritrea, and North Korea, Amnesty International was still able to provide deep insight into the use of the death penalty. 

Choose a country from the mosaic on the left to explore facts and figures regarding a country's execution and death penalty practices. 

Worldwide Trends: 1991-2014

As the trends below demonstrate, the number of death sentences and executions between 1991-2014 varied greatly. Generally, a rise in the number of executions is also accompanied by a rise in the number of death sentences. Further, the years 1996, 2001, 2004, and 2008 witnessed the sharpest increases in both death sentences and executions. The use of the death penalty has been gradually decreasing since 2009. 

Total number of death sentences and executions worldwide. (1991-2014)

Top-10 Executioners (2014)

Top-10: reported number of executions, by country (2014)

In 2014, the recorded number of executions decreased by 22%, compared to the previous year. 

Overall, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the United States have remained the top-5 executioners for several years. These countries are responsible for the majority of executions in the world. Exact figures for China, the world’s top-executor, are unknown as the figures are a “state secret.” Amnesty International estimates that an estimated 6000 people in China are executed annually. 

Overall, over 2,400 people were sentenced to death in 2014––an increase of about 28% in comparison to 2013. China remains the top ‘punisher,’ followed by Nigeria, Egypt, and Pakistan. 

Top-10 Issuers of Death Sentences (2014)

Top-10: reported number of death sentences, by country. (2014)

Progress and Prospective Trends

Despite alarming figures regarding the death penalty, Amnesty International states that "most of the world is moving in the right direction - away from the ultimate punishment." For example, Sub-Saharan Africa witnessed significant progress, with a 28% decrease in the number of executions, in comparison to 2013. The Middle East and North Africa region also experienced similar progress, with a 23% reduction in the number of executions. Progress in both of these regions are reflected in worldwide trends as well. 

Graphic Source: Amnesty International

Graphic Source: Amnesty International

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Protesters try to stop an execution in Texas, United States.

Source: PBS.

Execution by cannon in Shiraz, Iran during the 19th century.

Undated photo of capital punishment in Saudi Arabia.