The Death Penalty in the Arab World 2012


2011 and 2012 were turbulent years for North Africa and the Middle East. The revolutions in Yemen, Tunisia and Egypt, during which the governments were removed, opened a space for the people to renegotiate who should rule their country and how.

Negotiations are underway and up to this point it is difficult to know how it will play out. At this point, even with harsh living conditions populations continue to increase in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. In Syria the revolution resulted in a civil war in which various regional movements and powers are fighting at the expense of the Syrian people. The number of death penalties in 2011 and 2012 and executions in the MENA-region has to be understood against this background. The domestic and regional instability in some cases appear to lead to an increase in death penalties and executions. To control the population number, Kuwait’s government attempted to widen the range of crimes that can be punished with the death penalty, including blasphemy. Moreover, many of the death penalties and executions in Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Syria and Yemen were related to terrorist offences and other crimes against national security. A substantial amount of sentences were imposed for alleged charges of murder. To prove its authority in difficult times states can resort to capital punishment, which was the case in United Arab Emirates. In addition to this, internal and external conflicts, transitional governments, and/or authorial powers will further complicate the gathering of information and the accuracy of figures on the death penalty. Next to Iraq’s excessive increase in executions, the numbers of death sentences imposed by Algeria, Somalia and Sudan increased alarmingly. However, in contrast to the difficulties in obtaining figures, the prevailing uncertainties and increasing figures, the death penalty records of Bahrain, Mauritania and Yemen dropped.

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