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Home > The death penalty for drug offences: global overview 2018.

Girelli, Giada (2019) The death penalty for drug offences: global overview 2018. London: Harm Reduction International.

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The death penalty for drug offences in 2018: a snapshot
• Drug offences are punishable by death in at least 35 countries and territories worldwide.
• The total number of confirmed executions for drug offences (excluding China, including very limited data from Vietnam) between 2008 and 2018 is 4,366 (of which 3,975 were in Iran alone).
• Only four of these countries executed individuals for drug offences in 2018 (China, Iran, Singapore and Saudi Arabia). It is likely that Vietnam carried out drug-related executions, but because of state secrecy it is not possible to confirm this.
• At least 91 people were executed for drug offences in 2018 (excluding China and Vietnam).
• This represents a 68.5% decrease from 2017, a fall primarily driven by developments in Iran, where executions for drug offences fell 90% (from 221 in 2017 to 23 in 2018).
• Saudi Arabia was responsible for the most confirmed drug-related executions in 2018 (at least 59).
• Singapore executed nine people in 2018 (one more than 2017), all of them for drug offences.
• Over 7,000 people are currently on death row for drug offences globally.5
• At least 13 countries sentenced a minimum of 149 people to death for non-violent drug offences in 2018. A significant proportion of those sentenced are foreign nationals.
• Civil society reports and UN investigations shed light on the grave human rights abuses endured by many individuals awaiting or risking execution: fair trial violations; physical and psychological abuse; isolation; and denial of food and water, among many others.

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Report
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
General / Comprehensive, Harm reduction, Crime prevention
February 2019
48 p.
Harm Reduction International
Place of Publication

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