Death Penalty Bibliography

The following reports, books and articles discuss the death penalty on a global level. For country-specific death penalty reports, look at the “Helpful Reports and Publications” section at the end of each country questionnaire. For further references on a specific death penalty topic, consult our International Legal Issues pages.

Most of the reports listed below can be found in the online library of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty at http://www.worldcoalition.org/resource-center.html.

Reports

Reports of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Death Penalty

United Nations documents can be retrieved with their U.N. Doc. number on the U.N.’s Official Document System at http://www.un.org/en/documents/ods.

Quinquennial Reports

Every five years since 1975, the Secretary-General presents a report to the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) reviewing the global use of and trends in capital punishment. The information is gathered from questionnaires circulated to Member States. Since a 1995 resolution of the Council, the quinquennial reports also include a review of the implementation of the U.N. safeguards protecting the rights of those facing the death penalty. The most recent reports are:

  • U.N. Economic and Social Council, Capital punishment and implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty: Report of the Secretary General, U.N. Doc. E/2015/49, Apr. 15, 2015.

  • U.N. Economic and Social Council, Capital punishment and implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty: Report of the Secretary General, U.N. Doc. E/2010/10, Dec. 18, 2009. (A corrigendum was issued on Sep. 21, 2011 under U.N. Doc. E/2010/10/Corr.1.)

  • U.N. Economic and Social Council, Capital punishment and implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty: Report of the Secretary General, U.N. Doc. E/2005/3, Mar. 9, 2005.

Professor William Schabas of Middlesex University has made these and all prior quinquennial reports available on his blog at http://humanrightsdoctorate.blogspot.com/2010/07/secretary-generals-quinquennial-reports.html.

Reports on the Question of the Death Penalty

Since 1998, the Secretary General has presented an annual report to the U.N. General Assembly’s Human Rights Council on global trends in the application of the death penalty. The document reports on countries that have abolished, reinstated, restricted or expanded the use of capital punishment, countries that have ratified international instruments affecting the death penalty, and countries observing an execution moratorium. The most recent reports are:

  • U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Question of the death penalty: Report of the Secretary-General, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/33/20, Jul. 12, 2016.

  • U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Question of the death penalty: Report of the Secretary-General, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/27/23, Jun. 30, 2014.

  • U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Question of the death penalty: Report of the Secretary-General, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/24/18, Jul. 1, 2013.

  • U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Question of the death penalty: Report of the Secretary-General, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/21/29, Jul. 2, 2012.

  • U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Question of the death penalty: Report of the Secretary-General, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/18/20, Jul. 4, 2011.

  • U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Question of the death penalty: Report of the Secretary-General, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/15/19, Jul. 16, 2010.

Reports on Moratorium on the use of the death penalty

The Secretary General issues a report on the global use of moratoria on capital punishment a few months prior to the U.N. General Assembly’s vote on the Resolution to implement a universal moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The most recent reports are:

  • U.N.G.A., Moratorium on the use of the death penalty: Report of the Secretary-General, U.N. Doc. A/71/332, Aug. 15, 2016.

  • U.N.G.A., Moratorium on the use of the death penalty: Report of the Secretary-General, U.N. Doc. A/69/288, Aug. 8, 2014.

  • U.N.G.A., Moratorium on the use of the death penalty: Report of the Secretary-General, U.N. Doc. A/67/226, Aug. 3, 2012.

  • U.N.G.A., Moratoriums on the use of the death penalty: Report of the Secretary-General, U.N. Doc. A/65/280, Aug. 11, 2010.

Reports of U.N. Special Rapporteurs

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions submits annual reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council as well as reports on country visits. All are available on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx.

In 2012, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment published a report on capital punishment: U.N.G.A., Interim report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, U.N. Doc. A/67/279, Aug. 9, 2012, available at http://antitorture.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/A67279_Death_Penalty.pdf.

Amnesty International Annual Reports on Death Sentences and Executions

Amnesty International publishes an annual report in late March/early April on the number of death sentences and executions for each country in the previous calendar year. The report also summarizes the most important developments of the previous year relating to the use of capital punishment in each country that retains it. The most recent reports are:

Amnesty Intl., When the State Kills, Amnesty Intl. Publications, 1989. Although outdated, this was the first major death penalty report published by Amnesty and remains a valuable resource.

Hands Off Cain Annual Reports on the Death Penalty

The organization Hands Off Cain publishes yearly reports on the death penalty worldwide in English and Italian. The reports are published in the summer and cover the previous calendar year as well as the first six months of the report year.

Reports of the World Congress Against the Death Penalty

Every three years, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort organize an international abolitionist gathering, the World Congress Against the Death Penalty. Some of the proceedings of the Congress are available in French and English at http://www.abolition.fr/fr/articles/bibliotheque-des-publications-ecpm.

Other Reports

Books and Articles

Paolo G. Carozza, “My Friend Is A Stranger”: The Death Penalty and the Global Ius Commune of Human Rights, Texas Law Review, Vol. 81, p. 1031, 2002-2003.

Linda E. Carter, Ellen S. Kreitzberg, & Scott W. Howe, Understanding Capital Punishment Law, LexisNexis, 2d ed., 2008.

Peter Hodgkinson, ed., The International Library of Essays about Capital Punishment (in 3 volumes), Ashgate Press, 2013.

Peter Hodgkinson, ed., Capital Punishment: New Perspectives, Ashgate Press, 2013.

Peter Hodgkinson & William A. Schabas, Capital Punishment: Strategies for Abolition, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Roger Hood & Carolyn Hoyle, The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective, Oxford University Press, 5th ed., 2015.

Roger Hood & Surya Deva, Confronting Capital Punishment in Asia: Human Rights, Politics and Public Opinion, Oxford University Press, 2013.

David T. Johnson & Franklin E. Zimring, The Next Frontier : National Development, Political Change, and the Death Penalty in Asia, Oxford University Press, 2009.

Anthony McGann & Wayne Sandholtz, Patterns of Death Penalty Abolition, 1960–2005: Domestic and International Factors, International Studies Quarterly, 2012.

Erik C. Owens, John D. Carlson, & Eric P. Elshtain, Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning, W.B. Eerdmans, 2004.

Austin Sarat & Christian Boulanger, The Cultural Lives of Capital Punishment: Comparative Perspectives, Stanford University Press, 2005.

William A. Schabas, International Law, Politics, Diplomacy and the Abolition of the Death Penalty, William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Vol. 13, p. 417, 2004-2005.

William A. Schabas, The Abolition of the Death Penalty in International Law, Cambridge University Press, 3rd ed., 2002.

Last updated on May 21, 2015

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