2016 Archives

Worldwide Executions Surge To Highest Levels In 25 Years


The following is from the April 5, 2016, edition of The World Post. Rick Halperin, director of SMU's Embrey Human Rights Program, provided expertise for this story.

April 18, 2016

By Kim Bellware

Worldwide use of the death penalty rose sharply last year, with 2015 tallying the highest number of executions in 25 years, according to a report released Tuesday by Amnesty International. 

At least 1,634 people were executed last year, according to available data as well as executions corroborated by the international human rights group.

The number, which is more than double the 2014 total, is a conservative estimate: Countries currently in conflict, like Syria, were not included since their data could not be corroborated, nor were specific numbers from China, where such data is considered a state secret. China alone is believed to carry out executions that annually number in the thousands. . . 

Rick Halperin, a human rights and death penalty expert from Southern Methodist University, noted that high rates of execution are partly explained by unfair trials and the low threshold in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia: People there are executed for supposed crimes like drug trafficking, adultery, blasphemy and homosexuality. 

And while Americans may balk at such actions being punished by death, Halperin notes the U.S. has been sluggish on bringing its capital punishment system in alignment with international law. 

It wasn’t until 2002 that the U.S. stopped allowing the execution of people with intellectual disabilities, and it wasn’t until 2005 that the execution of juveniles (or those who committed a crime as a juvenile) was ruled unconstitutional. Up until 2008, some states were considering crimes other than murder a capital offense.

“No matter how ‘good’ a country’s human rights record is, if it’s killing people in the name of the law, it can’t have a good human rights record,” Halperin said.

Read the full story.

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