India uses death penalty: 5 other places where it's legal but rare

The decision of India’s Supreme Court today to uphold the death sentence for Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the last surviving gunman of the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, has reignited the debate in that country over capital punishment.  India is just one of several countries where the death penalty remains a legal possibility but a practical rarity.  Here are several others:


Death sentences are relatively common in India. While the 1980 case of Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab laid out a judicial proscription against capital punishment except in the “rarest of the rare cases,” judges have still handed out at least 50 such sentences every year over the past five years, including highs of 100-plus in both 2010 and 2011.
But despite having so many convicts on death row, executions are rare in India.  According to the BBC, there have only been two executions in the past 12 years, and most convicts can expect to see their death sentences commuted to life in prison.  
And now, growing doubts about the death penalty’s deterrent effect and fair application are fueling sentiment in favor of abolishing the death penalty entirely.  In an interview with the Times of India published Aug. 29, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court AP Shah said that
“India should join [other abolitionist] nations as there is enough reason to believe that the legal safeguard

2.Sri Lanka

Like its neighbor to the north, Sri Lanka has a large population of death row inmates – Reuters recently put it at more than 480.  But official executions in Sri Lanka are even more rare than in India: The state has not put a criminal to death since 1976.  
Extrajudicial executions, however, were not uncommon during the government’s war with the Tamil Tigers that ran from 1983 to 2009.
The lack of official executions is particularly noteworthy because Sri Lanka effectively reinstated capital punishment for rape, drug trafficking, and murder in 2004, but still has yet to use it.  That may change soon, however.  On Tuesday, the government began interviews to fill its two vacant executioner positions.  


Capital punishment has been almost completely banned in Europe.  Only two European nations, Russia and Belarus, still allow death sentences to be handed out.  But even Russia, in spite of its dark history of Stalinist purges and Soviet gulags, has effectively outlawed the death penalty.  Russia introduced a moratorium on executions in August 1996, and except for some executions between 1996 and 1999 in the Chechen Republic, the moratorium has held.
At present, Belarus remains the only European nation to assign and carry out death sentences, having done so twice in 2011.  Latvia is the most recent European country to ban the death penalty, having done so earlier this year.

4.South Korea

A handful of the world’s industrialized democracies – including the US, Japan, and Taiwan – still have laws permitting the death penalty.  But of that short list, only one nation has a moratorium on state-sanctioned execution: South Korea.
South Korea has not executed anyone since the end of 1997, when 23 people were put to death.  The moratorium was enacted in Feb. 1998 by Nobel Peace Prize winner and former President Kim Dae-Jung, who himself had been sentenced to death by a South Korean military court in 1980. (His prison term was  suspended two years later).

5.St. Kitts and Nevis

In the Americas, the death penalty has been almost entirely banned. Since Cuba ceased executions in 2003, only two countries in the region have carried out a death sentence.  One is the United States, which routinely appears in Amnesty International’s list of the world’s top 5 executioners.  
The other outlier in the Americas?  The tiny Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis.  
The Anglophone island nation executed Charles Laplace in Dec. 2008 for the murder of his wife, reported the Guardian.  The circumstances of Laplace’s execution raised criticism from human rights groups and local politicians about a lack of due process in Laplace’s trial. But despite such concerns, the country reiterated its support of the death penalty after a 2011 review.  
Although the US and St. Kitts and Nevis are the only American countries to carry out executions recently, several other nations retain their capital punishment laws, including Cuba, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana.  Mexico and Argentina most recently abolished the death penalty, in 2005 and 2008 respectively.