Human Rights Commissioner calls for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty

27.03.2012 - Press release

Human Rights Commissioner Markus Löning expressed shock that in 2011 the number of people executed worldwide was higher than in the previous year. The fight against the death penalty is one of Germany’s human rights priorities.

Markus Löning, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (27 March):

“I am extremely shocked by the figures published by Amnesty International, according to which considerably more people were executed in 2011 than in the previous year. The death penalty violates human dignity. I urge human rights abusing countries to abolish it!
It is worrying that some countries do not publish the number of death sentences handed down or executions carried out. The lack of transparency makes it almost impossible for us to gauge the actual situation.
However, this should not discourage us from continuing our campaign for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. Rather, we should welcome the fact that a growing number of states have eliminated it. We are thus on the right track.”


Although the death penalty is carried out in only a handful of countries, the number of executions has risen.

Setting aside China, in 2011 at least 676 people (2010: 527) were executed in 20 countries (2010: 23) and almost 2000 people in 63 countries (2010: 67) were sentenced to death.

Around the world, Iran (at least 360), Saudi Arabia (at least 82), Iraq (at least 68), the US (43) and Yemen (at least 41) carried out the most death sentences.

Alongside Saudi Arabia, Iran was the only country where juvenile offenders were executed. Amnesty has not published any figures on the death penalty in Chinasince 2009, as China treats these statistics as classified information. However, Amnesty estimates that China continues to execute thousands each year.

Around the world, 141 states have now removed the death penalty from the statute books or introduced a moratorium.

Campaigning to bring about a moratorium on or abolition of the death penalty is a main focus of Germany’s human rights policy, both in bilateral relations and within the scope of the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. The practical commitment of the EU member states and the European Union is based on the EU Guidelines on the Death Penalty. The EU issues public statements and targeted demarches with the aim of preventing death sentences being carried out in individual cases, as well as of influencing the practice in individual countries.

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