Chronography of capital punishment
Page last modified 6/6/2022
See also Crime and Punisment, Prisons
The status of the death penalty is complex worldwide. Essentially there are four possible situations, 1) Total abolition of the death penalty, 2) Abolition for ordinary peacetime offences, but possible retention in wartime (there may also be an experimental period of de-facto abolition before legal abolition is instituted), 3) The death penalty exists but is not used in practice, 4) The death penalty exists and is being used. Within (4), the range of offences liable to the death penalty can vary from murder only to include, possibly, political crimes, and even �economic� crimes such as theft and forgery, also serious drugs offences, or, (e.g. in Iran) distributing certain forms of pornography. Within (3), executions may take place rarely, then the death penalty passes into disuse again for some years.
�Executions ceased� implies this was the last year an execution took place.
Public executions generally cease some decades before in-prison executions.
In some countries the death penaly may appear to have been abolished more than once, e.g. Austria, Romania, where a different regime has been instituted since the first abolition.
Islamic Law may support the death penalty.
The death penalty may also be used in South and East Asian countries for drug offences and heinous sex offences. In 1979 10 countries could impose the derath penbalty for drugs offence; this rose to 22 in 1985 and to 33 in 2012.
African countries also tend to support the death penalty as the only appropriate punishent for murder.
6/1995, A moratorium on executions in Albania.
2/1992, Algeria declared a State of Emergency, and executions resumed in 8/1993. There was a temporary moratorium on the death penalty from 12/1993, but executions resumed from 3/1994.
1992, Angola abolished the death penalty.
1984, Argentina abolished the death penalty � it had been reintroduced by a military government in 1971, abolished for non-military crimes in 1972, and reintroduced after a military coup in 1976. 1990s political initiatives to reintroduce the death penalty have been thwarted by the Roman Catholic Church.
3/2/1967, In Australia, Ronald Ryan became the last person to be hanged, at Penkridge Prison, Melbourne, for murdering a prison guard when he escaped from prison in December 1965.
1921, Argentina abolished the death penalty, but later restored it.
5/9/1984, Western Australia became the last Australian State to abolish capital punishment.
1918, Austria abolished the death penalty.
1868, Public hangings in Australia ceased.
1950, Austria abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes during peacetime.
1787, Austria abolished capital punishment. However it was restored in 1795 for High Treason and extended to some other crimes in 1803.
1977, Bahrain executed a convict after a lapse of 20 years in executions; however it has again ceased executions since then.
1985, Executions ceased in Belize.
1977, Bermuda executed two men for a political murder, the first executions there for 34 years. Executions have aganin ceased since then.
1964, Executions ceased in Bhutan.
1975, Executions ceased in Bosnia.
1969, Brazil restored the death penalty (see 1882). However in 1979 the death penalty was declared to be applicable only in times of war.
1882, Brazil abolished the death penalty, but restored it under a military government in 1969.
1957, Executions ceased in Brunei.
1990, Bulgaria commuted all death sentences to 30 years imprisonment. However a death sentence was passed in 1992, but this too was commuted to imprisonment.
1989, Cambodia abolished the death penalty
14/7/1976. Canada abolished capital punishment for peacetime offences, after an experimental moratorium of five years. A move to reintroduce in in June 1978 was heavily defeated in parliament.
1981,� Cape Verde abolished the death penalty.
1985, Executions ceased in Chile
24/4/1905, China �de-barbarised� its death penalty procedure. By Imperial Edict, the body was no longer cut up and the head exhibited for public view.
1910, Colombia abolished the death penalty.
1877, Costa Rica abolished the death penalty.
1983, Cyprus abolished the death penalty.
Czech Republic and Slovakia
7/1990, The Czech and Slovak Republics abolished the death penalty.
24/3/1911. Denmark abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes during peacetime.
1966, The Dominican Republic abolished the death penalty.
1906, Ecuador abolished the death penalty.
5/2002, The European Union adopted Protocol no.13 demandning abolition of the death penalty in all member countires under all circumstances.� This followed on from Protocol no. 6 in 4/1983 added to the European Convention on Human Rights abolishing the death penalty. There has been no execution in any of the Council of Europe�s 47 member States since 1997.
1979, Fiji abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes during peacetime.
1949, Finland abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes during peacetime. Last execution was in 1824.
18/11/1981, France formally abandoned the use of the guillotine.
18/9/1981, Under President Mitterrand, France abolished the guillotine and capital punishment.
10/9/1977. The last official execution by guillotine in France; execution of Hamida Djandoubi. See 17/6/1939.
17/6/1939. The last public execution in France. The German multiple-murderer, Eugen Wiedman, was publicly guillotined outside Versailles gaol, near Paris. See 25/4/1739 and 10/9/1977.
11/1/1909. Four murderers were publicly guillotined in northern France.
21/1/1790, In Paris, Dr Joseph Ignace Guillotin demonstrated to the National Assembly of Paris a new machine for �humane� executions using a heavy blade falling on the victim�s neck. This method of execution was used in France from 1792
8/1995, The Gambia restored the death penalty, following a military coup. See 1993.
1993, The Gambia abolished the death penalty,
Germany (East, West)
1987, East Germany abolished the death penalty.
1949, West Germany abolished the death penalty.
1851, The last public execution in Germany. Executions thereafter took place within prisons.
1993 Greece abolished the death penalty for ordinary offences during peacetime.
1977, Grenada resumed executions after a lapse of 15 years; executions ceased again in 1978.
1983, Executions ceased in Guatemala.
1993, Guinea-Bissau abolished the death pensalty.
1985, Executions resumed in Guyana after a 15-year break. They ceased again in 1991.
1987, Haiti abolished the death penalty.
1956, Honduras abolished the death penalty.
1993, Hong Kong abolished capital punishment.
1928, Iceland abolished the death penalty.
2018, India extended the death penalty to cover rape of a child aged under 12. Previously the death penalty in India had covered murder, kidnapping, treason, terroriam, and rape that left the victim in a vegetative state. The more by Prime Minister Narendra Modi followed an outcry after a series of sex attacks in the country, and allegations that the Government was not doing enough to tackle this.
1969, Iran instituted the death penalty for possession of drugs.
20/4/1954, Michael Manning, 25, murderer, became the last person to be executed in the Irish Republic.
1307, In Dublin, a device for beheading people was mentioned.
1962, Israel last used the death penalty, when it executed Adolf Eichmann.
1954, Israel abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes during peacetime.
1947, Italy abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes during peacetime.
1789, Tuscany abolished capital punishment.
4/1976, Executions ceased in Jamaica, for four years.
1994, Lebanon hanged a man, 11 years after the last use of the death penalty there.
1977, Libya resumed executions after a lapse of 20 years.
1983, Malaysia instituted the death penalty for possession of drugs.
1952, Executions ceased in the Maldives.
11/1995, The President of Mauritius was obliged to ratify a second vote of the National Assembly abolishing the death penalty. He had been reluctant to do this because he was dissatisfied with the length of alternative imprisonment proposed. See 1987.
1987, Executions ceased in Mauritius. See 11/1995.
12/1995, Moldova abolished the death penalty.
1962, Monaco abolished the death penalty.
1990, Mozambique abolished the death penalty.
1990, Namibia abolished the death penalty
1968, In Nauru, no executions since independence in 1968.
1990 Nepal abolished the death penalty again (see 1945, 1985) for all but �exceptional crimes� � a protyection against assassination attempts on the Royal Family.
1985, Nepal restored the death penalty for some murders and terrorist offences,� see 1945, 1990. Executions resumed in Guyana after a 15-year break. They ceased again in 1991
1945, Nepal abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes during peacetime. See 1985.
1870, The Netherlands abolished capital punishment for ordinary crimes during peacetime. No executions since 1860.
1989, New Zealand abolished the death penalty
12/10/1961. New Zealand voted to abolish the death penalty for ordinary crimes during peacetime.
1905, Norway abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes during peacetime. No executions since 1876.
Papua New Guinea
1991, Papua New Guinea restored the death penalty, for �wilful murder�.
1974, Papua New Guinea abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes during peacetime.
1979, Peru abolished the death penalty.
1993, The Philippines restored the death penalty.
1987, The new government of the Philippines, following the overthrow of the Marcos regime, abolished the death penalty as an infringement of human rights.
1988, Executions ceased in Poland
1867, Portugal abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes during peacetime.
7/1/1990, Romania abolished the death penalty.
1864, Romania abolished capital punishment.
1947, The Soviet Union abolished the death penalty for ordinary peacetime offences but restored it in 1950.
1920, The Soviet Union suspended the death penalty, but restored it in 1921.
1917, The Soviet Union suspended the death penalty, but restored it in 1918.
25/1/1902, Russia abolished the death penalty.
1865, San Marino abolished the death penalty.
Sao Tome e Principe
1990, Sao Tome & Principe, which had retained the death penalty for military offences only, now completely abolished it.
1989, Executions ceased in Serbia.
1979, The Seychelles abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes during peacetime.
1992 Sierra Leone executed those convicted of a coup plot, after a lull in executions of over a decade.
1989, Singapore extended the death penalty to all offences involving the use of firearms.
1975, Singapore instituted the death penslty for possession of drugs.
Slovakia � see Czech Republic
1995, The South African Constitutional Court, in the case of The State v. T Makwanye and M Mcbunu, that the death openalty was �incompatible with the prohibition against cruel and degrading punbishment �. However the South African Parliament, faced with rising levels of violent crime, was reluctant to abolish the death penalty. See 7/1992.
7/1992, The South African Minister of Justice announced a suspension of the death penalty, see 1971, 1995.
1971, The Society fot the Abolition of Capital Punishment was founded in South Africa. See 7/1992.
1995 Spain abolished the death penalty from its Military Penal Code.
15/4/1978, The death penalty was abolished in Spain.
6/9/1923, Spain abolished the death penalty, but later restored it.
2/2019, Sri Lanka restored the death penalty, as part of a drive against drug trafficking, after a moratorium of 43 years (see 1976).
1976, Executions ceased in Sri Lanka (see 1959, 2019). However serious civil unrest lead to the adoption in Parliament of a Private Member�s Bill in 1995 restoring the death penalty for �extreme murders which shock the public conscience�.
1959, In Sri Lanka (then, Ceylon), a Commission on Capital Punishment recommended its abolition for an experminental period, see 1976.
1985, St Christopher-Nevis executed one man; no executions since then.
1984, Executions ceased in Surinam.
8/5/1921. Sweden abolished capital punishment for ordinary crimes during peacetime. In 1901 a Bill to aboloish capital punishment had been rejected by the Swedish Parliament.
1942, Switzerland abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes during peacetime. See 1874.
1874, Switzerland abolished capital punishment, although individual cantons retained the right to restore it if the murder rate rose. See 1942.
1992 Taiwan made the death penalty for mudred discretionary rather than mandatory.
1/1996, Executions resumed in Thailand; the last previous execution had been in 1987.
1979, Thailand instituted the death penalty for possession of drugs.
1982, Executions ceased in Tonga.
Trinidad and Tobago
1979, Executions ceased in Trinidad and Tobago.
1992 Turkey abolished the death penalty for drugs offences,
1980, Turkey ended a 7-year period, from 1973, with no executions. Between 1980 and 1983 there were 48 executions in Turkey; 23 for ordinary crimes and 25 for political crimes.
11/4/1973, UK Parliament voted against restoring capital punishment by a margin of 142 votes.
1969, UK Parliament permanently abolished capital punishment,
9/11/1965. The Act legally suspending capital punishment in the UK for 5 years came into force. This Act was largely due to the efforts of Sidney Silverman MP.
21/12/1964. The UK Commons voted to end capital punishment.
13/8/1964. The last hangings in Britain took place � the murderers Peter Anthony Allen at Walton Prison, Liverpool, and John Robson Walby at Strangeways Prison, Manchester.
16/2/1956. The British Parliament voted to end the death penalty.
13/7/1955. Nightclub hostess Ruth Ellis became the last woman hanged, at Holloway Prison in Britain, for the murder of her lover David Blakely, following her conviction on 21/6/1955. However there was public sympathy for her; she claimed someone else put the gun in her hand; and her case was influential in bringing about the abolition of the death penalty in the UK.
12/7/1955, The last hanging at Lincoln Prison. Kenneth Roberts, 24, was executed for the murder of 18-year-old Mary Georgina Roberts in Scunthorpe.
10/2/1955, The House of Commons voted by a majority of 31 to retain the death penalty.
23/9/1953, The Royal Commission on capital punishment said it should be left to the jury as to whether to impose the death penalty.
1/7/1953. MPs rejected a Bill to suspend the death penalty for 5 years.
20/1/1949, Attlee set up a Royal Commission on capital punishment.
12/1/1949. In Britain, Margaret Allen was hanged, the first woman hanged for 12 years.
15/8/1941, Josef Jakobs became the last person to be executed at the Tower of London. A German spy, he had parachuted into Huntingdonshire with a radio transmitter; however he injured his leg in the fall and was captured by the Home Guard. He was tried and shot the same day, in a chair.
15/12/1930, A UK Commons Select Committee recommended ending the death penalty.
26/5/1868, The last public execution in Britain took place outside Newgate Prison. Michael Barrett, the hanged man, had murdered 12 people with a bomb.
21/4/1868, In the UK, a Bill to abolish capital punishment, introduced by Mr Gilpin MP, was defeated by 127 votes to 23.
27/8/1861, Martin Doyle became the last person to be hanged in Britain for attempted murder.
1832, In Britain, house-breaking, sheep-stealing and forgery ceased to be capital offences.
16/12/1830, The last �hanging at execution dock� in Britain. This punishment involved hanging of pirates, such as William Kidd in 1701; the convict was then left at low water mark and immersed three times by the tide before being buried.
31/12/1829, Thomas Maynard became the last person in England to be hanged for forgery.
1814, In England, hanging replaced beheading as a punishment for male traitors.
1790, In England, hanging replaced burning as a punishment for female traitors.
18/3/1789, Catherine (Christian) Murphy (Bowman) became the last person in Britain to be executed by burning at the stake (see 5/5/1790). She had been convicted of �coining� (forgery), which was punished severely as a form of treason. After this date, hanging was substituted for burning.
9/12/1783, The first executions at London�s Newgate Prison.
7/11/1783, The last hanging was held at Tyburn, west London. John Austin, convicted of forgery, was executed.� An estimated 50,000 had been executed at Tyburn.
24/8/1782, David Tyrie, having been found guilty of spying for the French, became the last person in Britain to be executed by hanging, drawing and quartering, at Portsmouth.
1765, According to William Blackstone, renowned legal writer, there were 160 offences carrying the death penalty under English Law.
5/5/1760, The first hanging by hangman�s drop at Tyburn, London. Earl Ferrers was executed for murdering his valet.
1750, Russia abolished capital punihshment, under Empress Elizabeth. However it was later restored.
28/7/1716, The last hangings for witchcraft in England; Mary Hicks and her 9-year-old daughter Elizabeth were executed at Huntingdon. The last hanging for witchcraft in Scotland was of Janet Horne, in Dornoch in 1727.
1708, The last recorded hanging, in Britain, of children; a 7 year old and his 11 year of sister were hanged at Kings Lynn. Common Law then presumed children just as capable of criminal intent as adults; in 1629, for example, an 8-year old boy was hanged at Windsor for burning two barns.
14/5/1650, The UK Parliament voted in favour of the death penalty for adultery but this was never implemented.
1612, The last two people in England to be burnt to death for heresy were executed. They were Bartholomew Legate and Edward Wightmann, of Lichfield.
1250, In England, offences meriting the death penalty (hanging) included piracy and coin-clipping. At this time the Mayor of Exeter amnd the porter of the South Gate were hanged for negligence in leaving this city gate open at night, which allowed a suspected murderer to escape.
1200, In England, almost every town had a gibbet, and most manorial lords and abbeys also had them.
1100, In Norman England, hanging was generally giving way to mutilation as a punishmnent for theft. However under King Henry II, later 1100s, summary hanging (i.e. without trial) was reinstated as punishment for theft.
1907, Uruguay abolished the death penalty.
2018, Washington State, USA; Court declared the death penalty �arbutrary and racially biased�. The sentences of the 8 men on death row were all commuted to life imprisonment.
14/8/2018, The US State of Nebraska performed its frst execution for 20 years, as Carey Dean Moore, a 60 year old who had been incarcerated for 38 years, was given a lethal injection for murdering two taxi drivers. US support for the death penalty stood at 54% in 2018, up from 49% in 2016.
2017, 49% of US citizens supported the death penalty, down from 80% in 1995.
23/7/2014, Joseph Wood, convicted of double murder, took nearly 2 hours to die by lethal injection in an Arizona prison. Questions were raised on the practicality of the death sentence in America.
17/1/2006, Clarence Allen, 76, oldest prisoner on California�s Death Row, blind, with chronic heart disease,� and diabetic, was executed by lethal injection. His plea that his health was so bad that execution would be cruel, failed.
1995, New York State, USA, restored the death penalty, under Governor E. Pataki, after a break of 32 years.
1994, Kansas, USA, restored the death penalty, after a break of 29 years.
1985, South Carolina, USA, resumed executions after a break of 21 years.
1984, North Carolina, USA, executed a woman after a break of 21 years.
2/11/1984, Velma Barfield became the first woman to be executed in the USA since 1962.
7/12/1982, The first execution by lethal injection was carried out in the USA, in Texas, on Charles Books Jr.
17/1/1977. The US restored the death penalty, after a ten year suspension, and Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad in Utah.
3/7/1976. The Supreme Court of the USA, in the case of Gregg vs. Georgia, ruled that the death penalty was not cruel or unusual punishment and was constitutionally acceptable.
29/6/1972, The US Supreme Court abolished the death penalty as being unconstitutional, as it was a ;cruel and unusual punishment�.
8/5/1933, The first execution by gas chamber in the US, in Nevada.
8/2/1924. The first execution by gas chamber, in Carson City�s Nevada State Prison. Chinese gang member Gee John�s execution took some six minutes after the hydrocyanic gas was introduced.
6/8/1890, In New York�s Auburn prison, the electric chair was used for the first time on the murderer William Kemmler. This method of execution was attacked as constituting �cruel and unusual punishment� but was upheld in the US State and Federal Courts. By 1906 115 murderers had been executed by �electrothanasia�, and the method was had also adopted by the US States of Ohio (1896), Massachusetts (1898), New Jersey (1906), Virginia (1908) and North Carolina (1910).
1/1/1889, The State of New York adopted the electric chair for capital punishment.
1778, The first execution by hanging in the newly-independent USA, of Bathsheba Spooner.
USSR, see Russia
1863, Venezuela abolished the death penalty. Last execution in Belgium.
1962, In Western Samoa, no executions since independence in 1962.
1990, Zambia made the death penalty for murder discretionary rather than mandatory.
1988, Executions ceased in Zimbabwe.