Report: Fewer countries are using the death penalty for drug offences, but executions and secrecy are rising among those who do
Fewer countries use the death penalty for drug-related offences, but according to a new global report, executions have increased in those that have and have taken place in procedures characterized by authoritarianism and secret.
In its eleventh annual report on The death penalty for drug offences: global overview 2021published in mid-March 2021, the international drug observatory International harm reduction (HRI) found that eight “high compliance” countries contributed to an increase in death sentences and known executions. “The group of countries that actively use the death penalty as a central drug control tool is shrinking, but is also increasingly characterized by opacity and secrecy, even outright censorship,” writes HRI.
To be classified as “high enforcement” by the HRI, a country must have carried out one execution or handed down at least ten death sentences for non-violent drug offenses in the past five years. HRI ranked Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam as high demand countries.
HRI has confirmed at least 132 executions for drug-related offenses in 2021, a 336% increase over the number of known drug-related executions in 2020. This total, however, “will likely represent only a fraction of all drug-related executions carried out worldwide,” the group warned, as the secrecy surrounding the death penalty in countries like China, North Korea and Vietnam makes it impossible to track their practices. of execution.
HRI also reported “[a] minimum of 237 death sentences for drug-related crimes…in at least 16 countries”, which represents an increase of 11.3% compared to 2020 and 29.5% compared to 2019. About 10% of these death sentences have been handed down against foreign nationals. “Persons from ethnic minorities, women and members of vulnerable groups continue to be disproportionately affected by the imposition of the death penalty for drug-related offences,” the report said.
“Executions have been confirmed to have taken place in Iran and China, and likely took place in Vietnam and North Korea,” HRI reported. HRI has confirmed at least one drug-related execution in China, but said the country may have carried out more than a thousand executions in 2021. HRI has also confirmed 131 executions for drug-related offenses in Iran.
The huge increase in executions for drug-related offenses in Iran – up from 25 in 2020 – more than offset the drop in confirmed drug-related executions in Saudi Arabia following a moratorium on executions for drug-related offenses. announced by the kingdom in 2020. from 84 in 2019 to zero in 2021, although the kingdom continues to sentence people to death for drug-related offenses and has denied drug offenders retrials or death row switchings, HRI said. Singapore, HRI reported, carried out no drug-related executions for the second consecutive year.
Indonesia handed down 89 death sentences for drug offenses in 2021, the most confirmed sentences of any country. HRI has confirmed from media and court reports that Vietnam issued at least 87 death sentences for drug-related crimes in 2021, although the actual total remains a state secret. HRI was unable to confirm the number of death sentences in China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
HRI reported that more than 3,000 people are on death row across the world for drug-related offences, with drug-related death sentences rising at a faster rate than drug-related death sentences. other offences. The report indicates that women sentenced to death and executed are disproportionately likely to have been convicted of drug-related offences. Eight-six of the 164 women executed in Iran between 2010 and October 2021 had been convicted of drug-related offences, the report said, with at least five of them put to death in 2021.
The use of the death penalty for non-violent drug offenses has long been recognized as a violation of international law.