Analysis Thematic paper

SOME PEOPLE FEAR DEATH EVERY MORNING. Others are sentenced to death in countries that no longer carry out executions. Every day, these “living dead” fear a possible reversal of the moratorium1, which prolongs a life suspended between four walls. At least 483 executions were documented in 2020, and over 28,500 individuals faced capital punishment in nearly 50 countries. Those sentenced to death have spent months, years, even several decades, in prison.

Prisoners’ days move at a gruelling pace. Here, the gallows are on display to heighten psychological tension. There, prisoners are forced into humiliating positions with every move. Whether incarcerated with prisoners serving other types of sentences, assigned to specific facilities, or on “death row”, those sentenced to death have a particular status and face more restrictive prison conditions and reinforced security measures than the rest of the prison population.

How is daily life while waiting for death?

Prison Insider publishes an overview of practices in nine countries that have not abolished the death penalty: Belarus, Cameroon, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mauritania, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

—This work is based on in-depth documentary monitoring. Prison Insider sent surveys to organisations and experts with recognised expertise in order to supplement this information. This document does not claim to be exhaustive.

  1. A moratorium refers to a suspension of executions of condemned prisoners. It can be officially declared by a State or considered de facto when no execution has taken place for at least ten years. 


Prison Insider would like to thank the following:
For Cameroon, Indonesia, Malaysia, and DRC, Together Against the Death Penalty (Ensemble contre la peine de mort), RACOPEM, Droits et paix, KONTRAS, ADPAN, CPJ and Carole Berrih.
For Mauritania, ECPM, AMDH, CSVDH, RAFAH and, more generally, for all his interdisciplinary work, Nordine Drici.
In Belarus, HRC Viasna and International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
In India, Gale Andrew (Project 39A of the National Law University of Delhi).
For Japan, Michael Fox (Japan Innocence & Death Penalty Information Center) and the International Federation for Human Rights.
Thank you to the World Coalition and Together Against the Death Penalty (Ensemble contre la peine de mort) for their support and production.
Thank you to Coline Constantin, Nassila Saidou, Elise Garel, Margaux Daval and Julie Grobon for collecting, synthesising and formatting the information required for this project.
Prison Insider also thanks all those who contribute to the information on our website on a regular basis.