More than 70% of the world’s countries have abolished capital punishment in law or practice. However, the death penalty continues to exist in many parts of the world, especially in countries with large populations and those with authoritarian rule. In recent decades, there has been a clear trend away from capital punishment, as many countries have either abolished the death penalty or discontinued its use. The U.S. remains an outlier among its close allies and other democracies in its continued application of the death penalty.
While international law does not prohibit the death penalty, most countries consider it a violation of human rights. The use of the death penalty worldwide is relevant in evaluating U.S. standards of decency and what should be considered cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Some Justices of the Supreme Court have referred to international law as further affirmation of their own conclusions about the death penalty, particularly as it may apply to specific classes of defendants such as juvenile offenders.
There are a number of disagreements that may arise between countries that impose the death penalty and those that do not. Countries without the death penalty are particularly concerned when one of their citizens faces execution in the U.S. Some countries refuse to extradite individuals to the U.S., or even to provide incriminating evidence, if the defendant could face the death penalty. In addition, many countries and international bodies consider the death penalty to be a human rights issue and various U.S. death-penalty practices have been criticized as violating U.S. treaty obligations and international human rights law. The concern for human rights around the world has always been important in U.S. diplomacy, but the U.S. is often challenged because of its use of the death penalty and the protection that affords to other countries that use it in particularly abusive ways.
What DPIC Offers
International research on the use of the death penalty owes particular gratitude to Amnesty International, which has regularly monitored and reported on capital punishment around the world. DPIC passes this information on with attribution through its website and makes an effort to highlight those areas where international norms and practices reflect on the death penalty in the U.S. DPIC has issued one report focusing on this topic and regularly highlights relevant research and developments that occur around the world.
Apr 22, 2020
Executions across the globe fell 5% worldwide in 2019 to the fewest in more than a decade, despite a record number of executions in Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International reported in the human rights organization’s