Death Penalty: An Irreversible Torture

World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

On 10 October 2023, actors around the world will come together to raise awareness around the death penalty and to call for its abolition in every country. Building on the momentum gained from last year’s campaign, the 21st annual World Day Against the Death Penalty invites reflection on the relationship between the use of the death penalty and torture or other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment.

Today, 55 countries and territories still uphold and use the death penalty, and in 2022 an estimated 28,282 people around the world were known to be living under a sentence of death. An irrevocable sentence, the death penalty is discriminatory and waged disproportionately against people experiencing poverty, living with intellectual or psychological disabilities, members of religious, racial, or ethnic minority groups, and based on sexual orientation, religion, gender identity, and political opinion.

From the time of sentencing to the time of execution, various types of torture and other ill-treatment are utilised, including to force confessions for crimes punishable by death, and inevitably throughout the long and agonising waiting periods that pave the path to execution. What can only be amounted to as a form of psychological torture,“death row phenomenon,” refers to this excruciating waiting period often marred by degrading and inhuman conditions and treatment, isolation, and little to no human contact, all of which contribute to physical and psychological deterioration over long periods of time.

The act of execution itself, including methods such as decapitation, stoning, and lethal injection, is inherently incompatible with the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, often causing exceptional pain, not only to the victims of the execution but also to their families and loved ones. The pain of death penalty sentences reverberates throughout entire families and communities and can have damaging and lasting inter-generational consequences.

Download related documents about this year’s World Day Against the Death Penalty

 The factsheet]
 The 2022 World Day Against the Death Penalty Report
 The poster
 Facts and figures : Women and the Death Penalty

The death penalty in practice, key facts and figures

 112 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes
 9 countries have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes
 23 countries are abolitionist in practice
 55 countries still uphold and use the death penalty
 20 countries carried out executions in 2022
 In 2022, the top 5 executioners were China, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the USA.

The highest number of executions globally in the last five years were seen in 2022. And while numerous countries took steps towards abolition, 20 countries are known to have conducted executions in 2022, a slight increase from 2021.

Ten things you can do to end the death penalty

 Plan an event, such as a protest, an online seminar, a virtual workshop, a discussion, a movie screening, an art exhibit, or a play.
 Organise a visit to a prison to raise awareness around prison conditions and the realities of detention.
 Partner with organisations that support the rights of minority groups (women, LGBTQIA+ community, religious minorities, ethnic minorities, etc.) to raise awareness on how discrimination aggravates psychological and physical torture.
 Take part in a TV show or a local radio program to spread the message on the need to abolish the death penalty in every country.
  Join events on the abolition of capital punishment. You can find information about events near you on the World Coalition’s website on the page ‘events near you’.
 Learn more about how the death penalty and torture are connected by gathering local data about the physical and mental suffering and torture faced by people sentenced to death in your area.
 Write letters to people on death row or their families to offer support and to help combat isolation.
 Keep an eye on and participate in social media campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and start your own campaign using #nodeathpenalty
 Get the media involved to raise awareness about the torture that people sentenced to death are victim to, both in your area and around the world. Ask for interviews, collect stories from people on death row, investigate local cases, and lead awareness building campaigns.
 Participate in the global movement “Cities Against the Death Penalty/Cities for Life” on 30 November 2023.

For more details and ideas on how you can help fight the death penalty, download the mobilisation kit.

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