Death Sentences and Executions 2013 - Middle East and North Africa

The use of the death penalty in some countries in the Middle East and North Africa was an even greater cause for concern than in previous years. An alarming rise in executions in Iran and Iraq, the persistently high level of executions in Saudi Arabia, and the resumption of executions in Kuwait overshadowed the fact that for the past two years no executions have been reported in two thirds of all countries in the region.

There were some limited positive developments. No executions, and fewer death sentences, were reported in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).[52] For the first time since 2009, no death sentences were reported in Bahrain.[53]

However, both Algeria and Bahrain expanded the scope of the death penalty. Deposed former heads of state and senior officials of previous governments faced capital trials in Egypt and Libya. Draft constitutions proposed in Tunisia and Egypt – and adopted in early 2014 – did not contain provisions prohibiting the death penalty.


At least 638 executions in six countries (out of 19 in the region) could be confirmed: Iran (369+), Iraq (169+), Kuwait (5), the Palestinian Authority (3+, by the Hamas authorities, Gaza), Saudi Arabia (79+) and Yemen (13+). As in 2012, it could not be confirmed if judicial executions took place in Egypt and Syria.

At least 373 death sentences were imposed in 15 countries: Algeria (40+), Egypt (109+), Iran (91+), Iraq (35+), Jordan (7+), Kuwait (6+), Lebanon (7+), Libya (18+), Morocco/Western Sahara (10), the Palestinian Authority (14+: 13+ Hamas authorities, Gaza; 1+ PA, West Bank), Qatar (6), Saudi Arabia (6+), Tunisia (5+), UAE (16+) and Yemen (3+).

Executions rose by 15% in comparison to 2012, when at least 557 executions were recorded, also in six countries. In 2013, the vast majority of executions occurred in an even more concentrated minority of countries than in previous years. Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia alone accounted for over 95% of all confirmed executions in the region. While the number of executions in Saudi Arabia remained consistent, executions in Iran and Iraq saw rises of 18% and 30%, respectively. In contrast, executions in Gaza, in the area of the Palestinian Authority administered de facto by the Hamas authorities, halved; those in Yemen appear to have dropped for the second year in a row, although the real figures may be higher than the numbers Amnesty International was able to confirm.

For the second year running, the total number of confirmed death sentences – at least 373 – appears to have decreased considerably, from at least 505 in 2012, and at least 750 in 2011. However, in the area of the Palestinian Authority (especially in Gaza) and in Libya, the imposition of death sentences seems to have increased, the latter on account of its courts partially resuming operations since late 2012.[54] Generally, reporting on death sentences is incomplete due to a lack of comprehensive data, especially from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. For the second year running, the armed conflict in Syria meant that no information on judicial death sentences could be confirmed.

The authorities in Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco/Western Sahara, Qatar and Tunisia continued to impose death sentences but not to carry out executions.

Executions were carried out for crimes not involving intentional killings – therefore not meeting the threshold for the use of the death penalty under international standards. Death sentences were implemented for crimes such as armed robbery and "adultery" (Saudi Arabia), drugs offences (Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE), rape (Iran, Kuwait), and vaguely worded political "offences", such as moharebeh ("enmity against God" – Iran), "collaboration" with Israel (Palestinian Authority), and charges under broad anti-terrorism laws ("belonging to a terrorist group" – Iraq). Death sentences were imposed for rape (UAE), "collaboration with Israel" (Lebanon) and for terrorism offences (Algeria). However, in UAE and Yemen, reports indicated a reduction of death sentences for crimes other than murder.

People who were under the age of 18 at the time of their alleged crimes were executed in Saudi Arabia, in violation of international law, and may have been executed in Iran and Yemen. Foreign nationals were at particular risk of capital punishment in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE, in part because adequate interpretation facilities were not available during interrogations or trials.

Fair trial concerns in 2013 included, among other things, military courts imposing death sentences, sometimes on civilians, in Egypt, Lebanon, Libya and the Palestinian Authority (PA, West Bank; Hamas authorities, Gaza). Death sentences were handed down by courts despite the suspect being tried in their absence (in absentia) in Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya and the Palestinian Authority. In Algeria and Lebanon, death sentences were imposed posthumously. In Iran and Iraq, "appeals" procedures did not provide a genuine review of sentences. The widespread use of "confessions" obtained under torture or other ill-treatment continued to be of serious concern, especially in Iran, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority (Hamas authorities, Gaza) and Saudi Arabia.

At least 40 death sentences were imposed in Algeria, for acts such as murder and related to terrorist attacks. Most were sentenced to death in connection with attacks carried out by the armed group al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). At least 26 death sentences were handed down in absentia, and at least one was imposed posthumously, on a man already killed in a police operation. In May, two men were given the death penalty for killing hundreds of civilians and soldiers between 1996 and 2004. In December, amendments to the Penal Code were adopted, which included the death penalty for kidnappers of children if the victim dies.

No executions took place in Bahrain and, for the first time in four years, no new death sentences were imposed. However, the death sentence of Ali Yousef Abdulwahab al-Taweel was upheld on 23 January 2013 following a retrial by the High Criminal Court of Appeal. It had first been imposed by a special military court in 2011 in connection with the death of a police officer in March that year. Punishments laid out in the 2006 anti-terrorism law were toughened through emergency decrees issued by the King of Bahrain. Decree no. 20 of 31 July 2013 expanded the scope of capital punishment to include bomb attacks which result in casualties.

At least 109 death sentences were handed down in Egypt, but it could not be confirmed


52 But one execution already occurred in 2014.

53 One death sentence was imposed in February 2014.

54 The Libyan judicial system collapsed as a result of the 2011 armed conflict. Since 2012, courts have been slowly reactivated.

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