On July 25, 2023, Ghana’s parliament voted to abolish the death penalty. Although the death penalty would remain in the constitution for acts of treason, the new law would remove the death penalty as possible punishment for murder, genocide, piracy, and smuggling. The current 176 death row prisoners, including six women, would have their sentences commuted to life in prison. Last year seven people were sentenced to death despite Ghana not having carried out an execution since 1993.  

The parliament member behind the bill, Francis-Xavier Kojo Sosu, told the Guardian, “I have seen firsthand that the death penalty does not bring a sense of justice or closure to the families of crime victims, and neither does it deter offenders. I have also seen that those sentenced to death tend to be vulnerable individuals from deprived backgrounds, who have often experienced deep personal trauma. It was my view that we as a nation were better than this. I introduced these bills because I wanted the courts to cease imposing an inhuman punishment.” 

*[This section was updated on May 30, 2024 to reflect new information published in Amnesty International’s annual death penalty report (p. 37). The President Nana Akufo-Addo conveyed to parliament in November that he must refuse these bills as they were introduced as private members bill despite the constitution requiring these types of bills to be introduced by or on behalf of the President in Parliament. This bill had not become law by the end of 2023.]


On July 13, 2023, a Chinese kindergarten teacher who was convicted of the 2019 poisoning of 25 of her students, one of whom died after 10 months of treatment, was executed. Ms. Wang, age 40, had previously poisoned her husband with the same substance, though he survived with mild injuries. The number of executions in China each year remains a state secret.  

On July 10, 2023, a 25-year-old man was arrested for a knife attack at a kindergarten, resulting in the death of six people: one teacher, two parents and three students. The incident trended on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, with some users supporting capital punishment and others questioning the security of schools as similar incidents at primary schools have become more common in recent years. “It’s outrageous to do this to children who have no power at all. How many families will be destroyed by this… I support the death penalty,” one Weibo user wrote. 


The Court of Appeal in Malaysia reversed a death sentence for a Kenyan woman convicted of trafficking illicit drugs and sentenced her to 12 years in prison retroactively starting from her time of arrest in 2016. Last month, Malaysia eliminated the mandatory death penalty for 11 criminal offenses. 


In violation of the international “most serious” crime standard, Singapore hanged two people in the same week for drug-related charges in July. Mohammed Aziz Hussain, age 56, was executed for trafficking 50 grams (1.75 ounces) of heroin, and Saridewi Djamani, age 45, was executed for trafficking about 31 grams (1 ounce) of heroin — she was also the first woman to be executed in 19 years. UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Seif Magango condemned the executions and urged the immediate imposition of a moratorium. 

Singaporean law mandates the death penalty for those convicted of trafficking more than 500 grams (17.6 ounces) of cannabis and 15 grams (0.5 ounces) of heroin. Since the resumption of executions for drug-related charges in March 2022, 15 people have been executed according to a joint statement issued from human rights groups.  

In response to the execution, Amnesty International’s death penalty expert Chiara Sangiorgio said, “The authorities in Singapore must stop their unlawful and increased resort to executions in the name of drug-control. There is no evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect or that it has any impact on the use and availability of drugs.” 


On July 27, five men were executed in Kuwait, including three for pre-meditated murder, one on drug-related charges, and one for facilitating logistics for the 2015 suicide bombing of a Shia Imam al-Sadeq mosque, which killed 26 and injured over 200. Among those executed were a Kuwaiti national, an Egyptian national, a Sri Lankan national, and two referred to only as “illegal residents,” which is often used to describe the nation’s desert nomads, known as the Bidun or Bidoon. 

The executions drew condemnation from the UN Human Rights Office spokesperson, Seif Magango, as well as Amnesty International. Rawya Rageh, Amnesty International’s Interim Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “The Kuwaiti government has now executed a dozen people in less than a year, claiming a ‘tough on crime’ approach that panders to people’s worst instincts.” Kuwait had previously paused executions from January 2017 to November 16, 2022. 

Saudi Arabia  

With his case before the Supreme Court, death row prisoner Saud al-Faraj, age 42, has been on hunger strike for at least 10 days. He was convicted in 2022 of participating in 2011 anti-government demonstrations in Qatif, a Shiite-majority province, as well as running a terrorist cell and killing a police officer. Mr. Faraj, a businessman and father, has long claimed his innocence, stating that his confession was obtained through torture, supported by transfers to and from the prison hospital in between interrogation sessions. Sources told the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR) that Mr. Faraj requested investigation into his ill-treatment and was subsequently beaten and placed into solitary confinement, leading to his hunger strike. Mr. Faraj’s family has raised concern over the lack of transparency regarding court proceedings. 

61 individuals have been executed in Saudi Arabia during the first-half of 2023.  Among those executed were 15 foreign-nationals and two women. 27 or 44% of executions were ta’zir executions, meaning discretion was left to the state or judge because of a lack of specific punishment in Islamic law or when the requirements for other sentences were not met. In its submission for Saudi Arabia’s Universal Periodic Review, Human Rights Watch highlighted the nation’s use of capital punishment against minors and those convicted of non-violent drug-related charges. 


A 19-year-old high school student was arrested on blasphemy charges for allegedly disrespecting the Prophet Mohammad in a mock baccalaureate exam paper; if found guilty, she could be sentenced to death with no possibility of appeal. In recent years, the country has intensified their blasphemy laws by eliminating the clause allowing offenders to escape death if they repented. 


On July 28, 2023, the Pakistani federal government provided the Supreme Court with assurances that individuals convicted of involvement in recent May 9th protests would not face death and requested additional time to consider granting appeals for military court decisions. According to Reporters without Borders, journalists Wajahat Saeed Khan and Shaheen Sehbai have been accused of “abetting mutiny,” which carries the death penalty as possible punishment. 

Earlier in May, two Christian teenagers, age 18 and 14, were arrested on blasphemy charges for allegedly disrespecting the Prophet Muhammad; blasphemy charges carry a possible sentence of death in Pakistan. 


Mia Mohammad Mohiuddin and Jahangir Alam were executed on July 27 for the 2006 murder of University Professor S Taher Ahmed, bringing the total execution count for the year to three. Amnesty International’s death penalty expert Chiara Sangiorgio stated: “The recent executions and the persistent use of the death penalty in Bangladesh shows the Government’s continued callous disregard for the right to life.” 

The International Crimes Tribunal sentenced four Bangladeshi politicians to death for crimes against humanity that occurred during the 1971 War of Independence from Pakistan. Established in 2009, the Tribunal has been criticized for not adhering to fair trial standards and has sentenced 135 people to death so far. 


According to Norway-based Iran Human Rights, 61 people were executed in July bringing the total this year to 423 executions. Of those executed, 11 were from the Baluch minority, three were Afghan nationals, and four were women. A little more than half, or 32 people, were executed on drug-related charges, 19 for murder, six for rape, and four for moharabeh, or waging war against God. 

On July 5, 2023, the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran delivered their findings and recommendations at the 53rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. They reported that “Since November, at least 26 individuals have reportedly been sentenced to death in connection with the protests and dozens more have been charged with or face offences carrying the death penalty.” They alleged that seven executions were carried out after unfair trials, including confessions obtained through torture. 

There were developments in the cases of two rappers, Toomaj Salehi and Saman Yasin, who had faced the death penalty in connection to 2022 protests. After 252 days of solitary confinement, Mr. Salehi was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison. He was previously charged with crimes punishable by death but was acquitted. His lawyer, Reza Etemad Ansari, mentioned that Mr. Salehi is banned from leaving the country and performing music-related activities for two years. Mr. Yasin, who was initially sentenced to death and then granted appeal in December, was recently transferred to a psychiatric facility and reportedly injected with an unknown substance, which allegedly resulted in his unconsciousness for 24 hours and impaired vision for two days. Currently awaiting retrial, Mr. Yasin released an audio message shortly before being transferred that reiterated his innocence, noting his inability to select counsel or meet with appointed counsel. 

The Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, called for the death penalty for those who allegedly burned the Quran in Sweden and requested transfer of those European citizens to Iran in a July 22 tweet. 


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