Surge in executions of drug offenders in 2022, more on death row
Executions for drug-related offences surged in 2022, while the number of drug offenders on death row rose by more than a quarter, according to a new report from drug policy reform group Harm Reduction International (HRI).
There were at least 285 executions for drugs last year, more than double the number of the previous year, when at least 131 people were executed, HRI said in its report published on Thursday.
The number of death sentences handed out to those found guilty of drug crimes also rose, the report said, with at least 303 people in 18 countries sentenced to death. That was 28 percent more than in 2021. More than 3,700 people on death row around the world are now there as a result of drug offences, it added.
“This figure is likely to reflect only a percentage of all drug-related executions worldwide,” HRI warned, noting the extreme secrecy surrounding the death penalty in many of the countries that most use it, including China, Vietnam and North Korea.
The surge in executions of drug offenders – compared with at least 30 executions in 2020 – comes despite a continuing shift globally against the use of the death penalty, and as some jurisdictions took steps to limit its use.
HRI said that more needed to be done to make the countries executing drug offenders reconsider.
“The fact that these blatant violations of international standards and social commitments avoided almost all political, diplomatic, or economic repercussions sends a dangerous message to retentionist countries that executions, and therefore death sentences, can continue with impunity,” the report said, noting that executions for drug offences last year made up more than 30 percent of all executions, the highest since 2017.
“While more countries abolished the death penalty in 2022, the use of capital punishment for drug offences is going in a markedly different direction, impinging on the likelihood of achieving global abolition.”
The Global Commission on Drug Policy says the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences does not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” – for the purposes of article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – and therefore is in breach of international human rights law. The United Nations General Assembly, and the secretary-general, have also echoed that stance.
HRI said the surge in confirmed drug-related executions was driven by Iran and Saudi Arabia, which ended a 20-month moratorium on such executions that had been announced in early 2020.
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