Beheading is exclusive to Saudi Arabia, with 100 carried out in 2008. The executions usually take place without prior notice to the accused, their hands are tied before being taken to the nearest public place to where the crime was committed – and near to the largest Mosque. They are forced to kneel before the executioner with cries of Allahu Akbar [God is great] as he draws his sword. Sometimes beheading is followed by a public display such as putting the body on a cross – as happened in the Saudi capital Riyadh in May 09.

Hanging. The most humane form is considered to be ‘the long drop’ where a person is pre- measured and weighed in order to calculate the distance of drop so that the spinal cord in the neck [C1 & C2] is broken and death occurs at least within a few minutes. Failure to calculate correctly can cause either slow death [too short] by strangulation or decapitation [too long].

Countries that mostly execute by hanging are: Afghanistan Bangladesh, Botswana, Iraq, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, St Kitts & Nevis, Sudan.USA – In Washington it is available for prisoners who have requested it, and in New Hampshire if lethal injection is not an option.

Iran uses the automotive telescoping crane, which hoists the condemned up who is then slowly strangled by the noose; loss of consciousness taking up to 9 minutes and death up to 45 minutes. It is the most usual method of punishment taking place in public and often en masse – it may also be combined with flogging and amputation of limbs beforehand.
Stoning. There is a specific penal code regarding stoning: the condemned person is wrapped in white shrouds and buried in a pit. Men are buried up to their waists and women to their breasts. The stones used should not be large enough to kill the person in 1 or 2 strikes or be too small to cause an injury. If the person can escape they will be freed – ‘which is very unlikely, particularly for a woman with just her head and shoulders above the ground.’

Where is stoning legal?

Nigeria – issued deaths by stoning in 2008.  Iran – 2 men stoned to death Dec 25th 2008, and 1 in March 05th 2009. Somalia – a 13 year old girl stoned to death for adultery Oct 27 2008. On 17th Sept 09 Indonesia passed a new law to allow stoning. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Iraq also maintain the law for stoning.


Firing squad. The process varies from country to country so this is a general overview:

3-6 soldiers or peace officers fire simultaneously at the condemned, who may be strapped to a post or chair or lined up against a wall, they may be hooded or blindfolded in some instances a rock will be put in the mouth to stop any shouting. The shooters then aim at the heart for up to three rounds if this is unsuccessful they may also be shot in the head at close range or left to bleed to death.

The firing squad has been used in 2008 and 2009 in carrying out executions in Bahrain, United Arab Emirates [preferred], Indonesia [preferred], Iran, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia. The US state of Oklahoma authorizes this method which is reserved should the electric chair or lethal injection be deemed unconstitutional.

Shooting. China uses shooting reportedly in about half of all cases, mostly with a single shot to the back of the head or the heart from close range, the shootings may also be carried out en masse by firing squads.

Lethal Injection. China introduced lethal injection as a more humane form of execution in 1997. Creating mobile execution vans that travel to the area of the crime and that are equipped to facilitate death by injection. Critics, fuelled by the authorities refusal to allow anyone access to the bodies after execution, say that the switch to lethal injection is motivated not by human rights but rather by the illegal trade in prisoners organs.

United States
Lethal injection is used in all 36 states that apply the death penalty and by the military and Federal Government. There has been considerable controversy surrounding the use of lethal injection since its first use in1982. The US Supreme Court ordering a suspension of its use in Sept 07 after cases of slow and apparently painful deaths had occurred. The debate was whether lethal injection was considered to be a cruel and unusual punishment; the conclusion made was that the amount of pain and risk involved in lethal injection whilst unpleasant and worthy of elimination was not a violation of the constitution but rather inevitable. The suspension was subsequently lifted in April 2008.

The latest controversy has surrounded the failed execution of Rommel Brown in Ohio on Sept 15th 09 where staff after numerous efforts were unable to locate a suitable vein and abandoned the attempt after 2 hours. The execution was re- scheduled for the following week until a temporary restraining order was issued prohibiting a 2nd attempt unless a new motion was filed.

Electrocution. Confined to the US only 9 states maintain the use of the electric chair; Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. It may be offered to inmates as an alternative to lethal injection or used should lethal injection be considered unconstitutional.

The process involves the prisoners head & right leg to be shaved, they are then strapped into the electric chair, a wet sponge with covering skull cap placed on their head and an electrode placed on the leg when done they are blindfolded and up to 2000 volts sent through them for 30 seconds, if the process fails it is repeated until death occurs. The process may be viewed by a selected audience who are briefed beforehand. The procedure can cause violent movement of limbs, defecation and urination, vomiting of blood, the eyeballs to pop out, steam and smoke to rise from the person and the head to catch on fire.

The Gas Chamber. Now generally confined to the US, 5 states approve of its use; Arizona, California, Maryland and Missouri offer it as an alternative to lethal injection and Wyoming maintains it in case lethal injection is banned. The offender is strapped to a chair in a specially designed chamber and advised to take deep breaths to quicken the process – which they typically don’t. When the released gases – sulfuric acid and sodium cyanide react they produce hydrogen cyanide depriving the heart of oxygen inducing a heart attack type pain in the condemned for several minutes until death.