The death penalty is retained as a form of punishment in 46 nations worldwide. In 2008 there were 5,727 executions in 26 countries. China had the most executions with at least 1,700 to 5,000 being carried out. Iran at 346 executions and Saudi Arabia at 102 had the second and third most executions. The United States performed the fourth most executions in 2008 by executing 37 people, less than many previous years due to a brief moratorium o­n lethal injection.

Of fully developed nations, o­nly the United States, Singapore, and Japan still use the death penalty. While used as a punishment for specific crimes in those countries, the death penalty is largely practiced in poor and authoritarian nations as a form of political oppression.

Due in large part to the work of various human rights agencies, there has been a worldwide trend towards the abolition of the death penalty over the past decade. Presently, 151 countries have renounced the death penalty to varying extents. 96 countries have completely abolished the death penalty. Eight countries have abolished the death penalty for most crimes. Five countries have a current moratorium o­n capital punishment. 42 countries are de facto death penalty abolitionists, meaning they have not carried out any executions in the past ten years.

While there has been a worldwide trend away from the death penalty, some regions have seen an increase in executions or a reinstatement of the death penalty. For example, 15 people were executed in Japan in 2008, the most since 1999. Additionally, Saint Kitts and Nevis reinstated the death penalty after a ten-year de facto moratorium. Liberia has established the death penalty for some violent crimes.

Present methods of executions throughout the world include: lethal injection, electrocution, hanging, death by firing squad, and stoning.