Special Report

Portugal Was One of the Very First Countries to Abolish the Death Penalty

If you live in America, you probably believe that capital punishment is commonplace around the world. America puts people to death virtually every year, and has done so since it was founded. However, there are only 18 countries in the world where people are legally put to death. On the other hand, 144 countries do not have capital punishment in law or in practice, Amnesty International reports. (This is where the most people have been executed in the United States.)

Based on data from the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1976, the first country to do this was Portugal, which abolished the death penalty for all crimes that 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 European country that fully retains capital punishment, even recently adding crimes to the list of those punishable by death. (These are the 18 countries still enacting the death penalty.)

Many South American countries, too, have abolished capital punishment, though a few, such as Brazil and Peru, have only abolished it for “ordinary crimes.” 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. 

Here is 24/7 Wall St.’s list of every country that has abolished the death penalty, and when.

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