Special Report

Every Country That Has Abolished the Death Penalty, and When

More and more countries have turned away from the death penalty. Since 1976, 75 nations have struck down capital punishment for all crimes, according to Death Penalty Information Center. Others have abolished the death penalty for “ordinary crimes” but allow it only for exceptional crimes or those committed in exceptional circumstances. 

In all,144 countries no longer impose the death penalty either through their laws or in practice, Amnesty International reports. (On the other hand, these are the 18 countries still enacting the death penalty.)

To find which countries have abolished the death penalty and when, 24/7 Wall St. referenced the Death Penalty Information Center. Countries are ordered chronologically by when they completely abolished the death penalty. 

Portugal was the first in the wave of countries that abolished capital punishment beginning in 1976. The latest nation to make the same move was Papua New Guinea, which took the death penalty off the books just this year.

Nearly all European countries have abolished the death penalty. And though Russia retains it, there has been a moratorium on executions there since 1996-1997. Belarus is the only Eurpoean country that fully retains capital punishment, even recently adding crimes to the list of those punishable by death.

Many South American countries, too, have abolished capital punishment, though a few, such as Brazil and Peru have only abolished it for “ordinary crimes” and are not on the list. Many African nations, including Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and Congo, have also abolished the death penalty. 

On the other hand, many Asian countries, including Japan, China, and India, as well as Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar, retain the death penalty. 

Similarly, and unlike its neighbors Canada and Mexico, the U.S. is not in the list. The federal government and the military permit capital punishment, though the Biden Administration has placed a moratorium on carrying out federal death sentences since July 1, 2021. 

In addition, each state can decide whether to impose the death penalty by legislative action. Between 2009 and 2021, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Virginia have removed the death penalty from their laws. In total, 23 states have no death penalty, while 27  retain the death penalty, though three – California, Oregon, and Pennsylvania – have a moratorium. See the states with the most people on death row.

Click here to see every country that has abolished the death penalty, and when.

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