2015 saw the highest number of recorded death-row executions. Which country tops the list?

The World
An inmate stands against a fence at the Adjustment Center yard during a media tour of California's death row at San Quentin State Prison, California, December 2015.

An inmate stands against a fence at the Adjustment Center yard during a media tour of California's death row at San Quentin State Prison, California in December.

Stephen Lam

Around the world, a human rights group has documented at least 1,634 people who were killed in 2015 after receiving death sentences. That's the highest number of executions recorded by Amnesty International since it started tracking the number in 1989. 

The number, which represents only a percentage of the executions widely believed to have occurred last year, represents a surge of 54 percent, or 573 executions, over 2014. 

Among the 58 countries in the world that still allow the death penalty, the US comes in fifth for the number of executions it carried out last year.

Take the quiz below to find out which countries executed the most people in 2015.

We've included China in that list, but the 2015 figures from Amnest International actually exclude China. Why? Amnesty stopped publishing execution numbers for China in 2009 because it has been unable to obtain reliable information. China deems such data a state secret. However, it is widely accepted that the number of executions remains in the thousands, which would easily rank it at the top of the list.

According to the latest annual report, released by Amnesty International Wednesday, 89 percent of the recorded executions in 2015 were carried out in only three countries  — Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

All three countries saw a year-over-year increase in executions — a 31 percent increase in Iran and a 76 percent increase in Saudi Arabia.

In Pakistan, a six-year moratorium on execution was lifted at the end of 2014, which resulted in more than 320 executions — the highest number ever recorded in Pakistan by Amnesty International.

Amnesty also found that Iran and Pakistan both executed juveniles under 18. 

Despite these grim figures, there is good news in the report. Four countries — Republic of Congo, Fiji, Madagascar and Suriname — repealed the death penalty in 2015, while Mongolia abolished capital punishment for all crimes from 2016.

The number of countries that have abolished the death penalty, also referred to as "abolitionists," has increased gradually in the past 40 years, growing from a minority of countries to majority. Another group of countries have functionally abolished the death penalty, where it remains on the books, but has not been used in a decade or more.

death penalty chart abolitionist countries
Credit:

Amnesty International

In the US, the number of executions has fallen from 35 in 2014 to 28 in 2015 — a 20 percent decline. The 2015 figure for the US was the lowest recorded by Amnesty International since 1991. That's partly due to legal challenges and difficulty securing supplies of chemicals used for lethal injection.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced a moratorium on the death penalty in February 2015. In Nebraska, after a tug of war between the governor and state legislators, a referendum is scheduled in November to consider abolishing capital punishment in that state.

Amnesty International produced this interactive map that further illustrates the data.