The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and a violation of human rights – but every day people are put to death in countries around the world.

In Saudi Arabia, 47 people have been executed in just one day. In Pakistan, hundreds are hanged, including juveniles and the mentally ill. In Egypt, activists and journalists face death sentences in wave after wave of repression. In the US, states are using untested combinations of misused medicines to kill prisoners, while passing secrecy laws to hide their tracks.

So-called ‘crimes’ that are punished by execution include homosexuality, adultery and blasphemy. Authoritarian regimes across the world use the death penalty and torture as tools to silence those who dare to oppose them.

The battle between human rights and the death penalty has many frontlines – and we’re on all of them. Our lawyers and investigators go to the places where executions are happening and stop them. In doing so, we protect human rights, save lives and challenge whole systems of injustice.

With us are thousands of activists across the world who believe that protecting human rights means standing up for the most vulnerable. Together, we fight for those facing execution and other extreme human rights abuses with a combination of legal action and public pressure.

Facts from the frontline

At least 1,032 people were put to death around the world in 2016 according to research by Amnesty. 23 countries executed people last year, and just four of them account for 87% of global executions. These statistics exclude China, where execution numbers are a state secret. It is likely that China executes thousands of people each year, meaning the true number of executions worldwide is at least double the recorded total.

In 2016, people were executed following unfair trials, torture, and ill-treatment. People were executed for crimes committed under the age of 18, for non-violent and political offences, and despite evidence of mental and intellectual disabilities. But 104 countries have now completely abolished capital punishment – the highest it has ever been. The facts of the global death penalty show how far we have come and how far we still have to go. Find out the facts below.

5 so-called ‘crimes’ punishable by death

Who are the world’s most prolific executors?

This case could change the death penalty system in Pakistan for good


Reprieve’s videos tell the stories of prisoners who have faced or are facing execution with the help of some of our talented supporters. Watch David Morrissey delivering the words of an artist executed in Pakistan, and David Tennant and others performing the last words of executed prisoners around the world. Also see Reprieve founder Clive Stafford Smith and director Maya Foa answering frequently asked questions on capital punishment. Why is the death penalty so bad? What does Reprieve do about it? And what can the public do to help?

My father, mental illness, and the death penalty

“I just received my Black Warrant. It says I will be hanged by the neck until dead”

Last Words

Death Penalty FAQs

The stories

Thousands of people currently sit on death row around the world. Thousands more have already been executed. All of them have a story.

Despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence, Ivan Teleguz was sentenced to death in Virginia. Ali Al-Singace, Abbas Al-Samea and Sami Mushaima were tortured and executed in Bahrain because of their families’ links to political opposition. Clive Stafford Smith is Reprieve’s founder. In his long experience fighting death penalty cases, he has watched six of his clients die.

Read their stories of injustice, determination and hope.

Saved from execution in the US

Mental illness on all sides of the death penalty

“I have watched while six of my clients die”

Stories of three men executed in Bahrain

The countries

At the end of 2016, 57 countries still actively used the death penalty. A further 30 retain the death penalty in law, but have not used it in over 10 years; 7 others retain the death penalty for use only in extreme cases such as war crimes. 104 countries, more than half of the world, have abolished the use of the death penalty for all crimes.

Reprieve campaigns against the death penalty in countries across the globe, from the United States to Indonesia. We specialise in working on cases that amount to the most extreme abuses of human rights, such as the execution of political activists, the mentally ill, and children.

Below, we spotlight how just some of the countries we work on use the death penalty.

Spotlight on Egypt

Spotlight on Saudi Arabia

Spotlight on Bahrain

Spotlight on Pakistan