The Death Penalty for Drug Offences: Global Overview 2015

The Extreme Fringe of Global Drug Policy

Since bring launched in 2007, HRI’s death penalty project has been the leading global resource on the issue of the death penalty for drug offences. In this new fourth edition of HRI’s ‘Global Overview’ series, HRI updates our previous research on the death penalty for drugs in law and practice worldwide, and also considers critical developments on the issue.

Among the key findings:

  • There are at least 33 countries and territories that prescribe the death penalty for drugs in law.
  • At least 10 countries have the death penalty for drugs as a mandatory sanction.
  • In 2013, around 549 people were believed to have been executed for drugs. However this estimate cannot be considered comprehensive, and it is likely there were
  • more executions than those publicly recorded.
  • Executions for drugs took place in at least seven countries since 2010.
  • As of 2015, there are believed to be almost 900 people on death row for drugs in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Pakistan, and many hundreds more in China, Iran and Vietnam.

While the report notes that there still are a troubling number of governments with capital drug laws, in practice very few states actually execute people for drugs. The number of people killed for drug-related offences is high but only because China, Iran and Saudi Arabia are aggressive executioners. The reality is that those governments that kill for drugs are an extreme fringe of the international community.