This report covers the judicial use of the death penalty for the period January to December 2021. As in previous years, information is collected from a variety of sources, including: official figures; court judgements; information from individuals sentenced to death and their families and representatives; media reports; and, for a limited number of countries, as specified, other civil society organisations. Where official information is not already public, Amnesty International writes to the relevant authorities to request information about the extent of their use of the death penalty.
Amnesty International reports only on executions, death sentences and other aspects of the use of the death penalty, such as commutations and exonerations, where there is reasonable confirmation. In many countries governments do not publish information on their use of the death penalty. In China and Viet Nam, data on the use of the death penalty is classified as a state secret. During 2021 little or no information was available on a few other countries – in particular Belarus, Laos and North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) – due to restrictive state practice.
Therefore, for many countries, Amnesty International’s figures on the use of the death penalty are minimum figures. The true overall figures are often likely to be higher. Where the organisation obtains official information from the authorities on a specific country in a given year, this is noted in the report.