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To this day, 98 countries have abolished the death penalty in all circumstances. Seven others only abolished it for common crimes, whereas 35 countries have implemented a moratorium on executions for at least 10 years. In 2013, there are still approximately 58 countries or territories in where the death penalty is still applied. Therefore, during 2013, 778 executions took place in 22 countries, a considerable increase compared to 682 executions during the previous year. Furthermore, the figure of 778 excludes the thousands of executions carried out in China, which accounts for more executions than the rest of the world combined.
Out of the 54 countries that still retain the death penalty, with the exception of a few democracies such as the United States or Japan and India, most death sentences are implemented in countries with authoritarian regimes.
With a higher number of people executed than the total number of executions in the rest of the world, Asia remains the first retentionist region. Several countries in the region do not publish any statistics regarding death penalty use and the public opinion that supports capital punishment is still a major challenge to face. Indeed, in 2013, at least 37 executions were reported in 10 countries within the region, and more than a thousand death sentences were pronounced in 17 countries. However, the number of executions has decreased these past ten years in Asia. Indeed, five countries in the region have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, Nepal in 1997, Bhutan in 2004, the Philippines and Cambodia in 2006, and last but not least Mongolia in 2012. Nevertheless, some set-backs have put this progression into perspective: India and Pakistan resumed executions and extended the scope of capital punishment respectively in 2012 and 2014; Indonesia and Singapore resumed executions as well.
Governments that retain the death penalty consider it exclusively a matter of national law. However, the use of the death penalty in fact contravenes international norms and the founding principles of law. The verdict is too often issued after an unfair trial. Most of the time, it is discriminatory, or handed down for non-violent crimes or to individuals who were underage when the crime was committed. In countries that have abolished by law, pro-death penalty movements regularly challenge the idea of abolition. Furthermore, the risk remains that de facto abolitionist countries, which have not executed for many years, resume executions.
Ordinary citizens, human rights activists, and members of the legal profession who voice their opposition to the death penalty in retentionist countries face considerable political, legal, or religious obstacles on a daily basis. Often part of a minority, they strive to make their voices heard by an ill-informed public opinion that wrongly thinks that the death penalty is an essential way of efficiently combating crimes.
However, the number of death sentences is decreasing, going from 2024 in 2010 to 1923 in 2011 and every year, new countries abolish the death penalty:
As said previously, Mongolia ratified the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aimed at abolishing the death penalty in January 2012.
Latvia abolished the death penalty for all crimes in January 2012.
Honduras and the Dominican Republic ratified the Additional Protocol of the American Convention concerning Human Rights and the abolition of the death penalty in November 2011 and January 2012.
In the United States, Illinois and Connecticut have become the 16th and 17th States to have abolished capital punishment respectively in March 2011 and April 2012.