Capital Punishment: 10 Countries That Still Execute Death Penalty


Even in modern days, capital punishment is still around in so many countries around the world. There are more than 50 countries that still sentence people to death with a wide range of different methods. Hanging is one of the legal and most common methods of execution, but there are more. However, you are going to find only 10 countries that have some of the most serious forms of capital punishment. Let’s take a look at the list below to see the crimes and punishments for them in the list below.


image: BBC

Execution Method: Shooting

Although not so often, capital punishment is still a legal penalty in Belarus in 2021. This part of sentence has been a part of the country’s legal system since it gained independence in 1991. Belarus is the only country in Europe that still execute the death penalty where 2 to 9 people are sentenced to death annually. The inmates never know when their punishment comes because they are never told. Also, it is all a state secret when it happens. The executioner is a member of the committee for the execution of sentences. That person also chooses the area where the execution will take place.

During The Execution

Usually, the death penalty is for crimes against individuals or states. The acts such as murder, sabotage, terrorism, treason, violation of war laws and usage, and more. In some cases, a life sentence is also punishable for some non-violent crimes. Under the country’s law, women, persons under 18, and persons over 65 are ineligible for and exempt from the death penalty. The execution is carried out by a shot in the head, and the body is not handed over to their relatives for burial. So far, more than 340 people received capital punishment in Belarus.


Execution Methods: Gun Shot, Lethal Injection

It is not a surprise that capital punishment is a legal penalty in the People’s Republic of China. According to its large population, China is the country that executes the most death penalties in the world. There are more people executed in China each year than in the rest of the world combined. The 2 most common crimes among the 46 that can lead to death sentences are drug trafficking and murder. Other crimes are armed rebellion, arson, bombing, espionage, explosion, illegal acts, rape, robbery, selling state secrets, spying, theft, treason, etc. China has been having capital punishment as one of the 5 most common penalties since the early dynasties.

During The Execution

Death sentences take place either at the execution ground or in designated places of custody. There is no specific execution ground in some areas of the country. So a scout team will choose a place in advance to serve as the execution ground. In China, there will be announcements to the public after the execution, but it is not held in public at all. Also, persons under 18 or pregnant women at the time of trial will not be on death row until they meet the conditions for the punishment. The execution is either by injection or shooting depending on the court’s decision based on the crime committed.

Since 1949, the firing squad was the most common method to carry out capital punishment. Lethal injection became the second method in 1996, and it is used for economic crimes such as corruption. As for shooting, it is the standard execution method for murders and other forms of crimes in the country. Confession is the way to verify the crime instead of evidence, and this leads to a number of false convictions. Executions in China are state secrets; therefore, the families will only find out after their family members have been executed.


Execution Method: Hanging

Egypt is one of the countries with the most death sentences due to several mass executions in the past few years. The death penalty has been skyrocketing under the leadership of President Fattah el-Sisi, with thousands of death sentences ordered since 2013. Inmates with capital punishment will stay in special wards, separated from other prisoners, and their families can visit them once a month. So far, there have been more than 2,500 initial death sentences in Egypt. In late April this year, 9 people were put to death during the holy month of Ramadan.

There are various crimes that can result in capital punishment in Egypt including crimes committed abroad that are harmful to state security. Those are abduction of females, arson, homicide, murder, narcotic-related acts, political violence, rape, terrorism, vandalizing, etc. The execution method for those crimes is by hanging, and it is generally carried out at the Cairo Central Prison and other prisons. As for military-related crimes, the firing squad is the personnel who carries out the execution. The execution will not be held on an official holiday or a religious holiday of the convict’s faith.

During The Execution

In Egypt, families of inmates with the death penalty can visit them on the day prior to execution. Unlike Belarus, the prison administration will inform the inmates of the date of execution. Also, there will be special measures to meet the convict’s needs if their religion requires certain rituals before death. For pregnant women, the execution will postpone until two years after giving birth. After the execution, the government will cover the burial expenses and the burial must take place without ceremony.

The inmate’s relatives can bury the convict if they wish to do that themselves. The body will be transferred to the nearest place to the prison to prepare for body preservation within 24 hours. If no one claims the body after 7 days, it will be handed over to a university, according to EIPR.


Execution Methods: Hanging & Shooting

Capital punishment is a legal punishment in India that is permissible for some crimes in India. Those include criminal conspiracy, dacoity with murder, kidnapping for ransom, murder, rape, treason, and more. For hanging, the rope is specifically and specially comes from Buxar in Bihar where hanging ropes are provided. This is to ensure the right drop for instant neck breaking. The prison designs the hanging rope for each convict based on their height and weight. Before the death penalty, there will be the process of review petition, curative petition, and mercy petition.

If the president dismisses the petitions, the housing court will issue a black warrant. After the black warrant is signed, the court will decide the date, time, and place of the execution for the convicts. The court does so by looking at the suggestions and preparations of the jail administration. Generally, there will be an executioner who carries out the execution. In case the government is unable to find an executioner, the police offers will perform the execution.

Once the date and time are decided, the convicts will go from the death cell to another cell. Then the district magistrate will come to the prison to take the last statement and will from the convicts. Also, the inmate is allowed to see the person he wants to meet for the last time. Before the execution, the convicts will bathe and wear new clothes at around 4am in the morning. Then, the prisoner will be given tea in the morning before 12 armed guards escort him to the place of execution.

During The Execution

During the execution, there will be a doctor who signs the death certificate, a jailer, and a deputy superintendent jailer. There is also a sub-divisional magistrate who keeps a check on the process the entire time. Apart from them, there are other 10 constables and 2 head constables or an equal number of armed guards. At that time, everyone has to remain silent. The jailer will indicate by dropping a handkerchief as soon as the black warrant is fixed. The hangman then pulls the lever, and the body will remain hanging for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the doctor will examine the body before it is taken away.

As for shooting, the firing squad will perform the execution. In case the firing squad is not available, the Air Force, Army, or Navy Acts will handle the execution. These Acts will give the discretion to the court martial tribunal to decide the execution methods. Despite the shooting being fast and simple, hanging is the most common form of execution in India. By 2021, over 300 prisoners are on death row in India due to Covid-19.


image: iranwire

Execution Methods: Falling From Heights, Firing, Hanging, Stoning

There are 4 main execution methods for capital punishment in Iran, and there are many punishable crimes that lead to those. The most common crimes include armed robbery, arson, blasphemy, burglary, child molestation, counterfeit, drug trafficking, murder, and rape. Some other acts are also considered crimes in Iran such as adultery, apostasy, fornication, homosexuality, incestuous relations, prostitution, and sodomy. More than that, Iran is also one among 3 countries that still carry out public executions. This is why Iran’s judicial system is still among the most brutal in the world with the most executions annually.

During The Execution

In Iran, there are different execution methods for different crimes in the country. Those are:

  • Falling From Heights: This execution method is for abduction, homosexuality, rape, and theft. The convicts will be thrown off a cliff or from a great height, depending on the judge’s orders.
  • Firing Squad: Military and political crimes such as conspiracy or crimes against the government is punishable by shooting. Firing squad is legal in Iran but it is very rare today. The last time it was used was in 2008 to execute a man who raped 17 children.
  • Hanging: Up to 15% of executions in Iran are for rape, and the punishment is death by hanging. However, many rape victims settle the case by accepting compensation in exchange for forgiveness or withdrawing the charges. Even so, the rapists still get tazir penalties (sinful actions in Islam) such as 100 lashes, imprisonment, etc. As for sodomy (anal or oral intercourse), is also punishable by death by hanging. For participants under 18, the punishment is 100 lashes instead.
  • Stoning: Adultery is punishable by 100 lashes for unmarried people before 2012. As for married people and all cases of incest, the punishment is death by stoning. As long as there are 4 people witnesses to prove the adultery and the person confesses, the penalty will be carried out.

By law, all executions must take place in public, mainly in the prison where the crime took place. The capital punishment of all forms will be at 4AM local time before the call for morning salat (prayer). The witnesses of the events such as family, prosecutors, and other prisoners will watch the executions in prison. As for public executions, it is common for crimes such as child murder, gang rape, massive drug trafficking, etc.

6North Korea

image: DEATH ROW

Execution Method: Decapitation, Firing Squad, Hanging

Information on death penalties in North Korea is not abundant, but we all know that capital punishment is very common there. Life sentences are for many offenses such as defection, drug smuggling, espionage, grand theft, murder, piracy, rape, treason, and more. According to some sources, even some minor offenses such as possessing a Bible or watching South Korean movies is punishable by death sentences.

During The Execution

North Korea is one of 4 countries in the world that carry out public executions, mostly by firing squad. There are always brief trials on the spot that occurs immediately right before the public execution. These brief trials are where charges are stated and a sentence is given, always without legal counsel for the accused. During the public execution, guards will use handheld metal detectors to find and confiscate mobile phones from witnesses there. This is to ensure that there is no recording of the events when the execution takes place.

Public executions most often happen in places such as fields, marketplaces, open spaces, river banks, school grounds, and sports grounds. According to Amnesty International, executions are often accompanied by tortures as a means of deterrence. In many cases, the children and family members of the convicts were forced to watch the executions. The states will dispose of the dead bodies after the executions, and the families will not get the bodies of their family members.


Execution Method: Hanging

Pakistan is a very strict country with the largest death row in the world as thousands of convicts are waiting for execution. Capital punishment is legal for over 30 crimes, and the most common ones are gang rape, kidnapping, and murder. Apart from that, the other common crimes are adultery, blasphemy, drug smuggling, treason, woman assaults, and various narcotics charges. Among all crimes, raping is the crime that is unforgivable. “We want severe punishments for rapists because there is no deterrence whatsoever.”, said Faisal Javed Kan, a senator for the ruling party. At the same time, the government believes that capital punishment is the only effective way to deal with terrorism. In fact, the country also has strong public support for the death penalty as well.

During The Execution

Supreme Court of Pakistan decides whether or not the person receives the death penalty for the crime they committed. Unlike other countries, there is no exception for juveniles or the disabled when it comes to capital punishment in Pakistan. Hanging is the only legal method of execution in Pakistan, and most of which is carried out in public. By the end of 2020, there were 3,831 convicts in death row while there were 4,225 in 2019.

8Saudi Arabia

Execution Method: Beheading, Shooting

Capital punishment is legal, and Saudi Arabia is one of the 4 countries that carry out a public execution. Saudi Arabia also executed offenders who were juveniles although the country sighed the Convention on the Rights of the Child. After the last execution of juveniles in 2020, minor convicts will no longer face the death penalty. Instead, they will face at least 10 years in the juvenile detention facility. There are at least 10 crimes that are punishable by death sentences in Saudi Arabia. Those are adultery, apostasy, armed robbery, blasphemy, burglary, drug smuggling, espionage, homosexuality, murder, rape, sorcery, terrorism, treason, and so on. Mass executions have been carried out a few times in the past years, mostly for terrorism.

During The Execution

In Saudi Arabia, there is a public square known as Deera Square where public executions take place. This square also goes by the name Al-Safaa Square, Justice Square, or Chop Chop Square. Usually, the police and other officials will clear the area to make way for the execution after Friday prayers. The executioner will behead the convict using Sulthan (sword), then the head will be stitched to the body after the beheading. Witnesses cannot take photos or videos of the executions because it is a crime to do so.

Besides the execution in Deera Square, other public beheadings typically take place at around 9 AM. The convict will be walked to a courtyard near the courthouse and kneel in front of the executioner. A police official will announce the crime that the person committed, then the executioner uses the sulthan to remove the convict’s head. After that, a medical examiner will inspect the body and pronounce the person dead. The police official will announce the crime of the beheaded convict once again to mark the end of the execution. Most of the time, the executed bodies will not be handed back to the families and there is no explanation behind it.

9United States

Execution Methods: Electrocution, Firing Squad, Hanging, Lethal Injection

Capital punishment is legal in 27 states in the United States, but only 21 states have the ability to execute the death penalty. As for the other 6 states, they are subject to different types of moratoria (temporary prohibitions). In the United States, some states require a jury to decide the death sentence. However, a three-judge panel will decide on the death penalty or life imprisonment in Nebraska. The crimes that are punishable by life sentences are aggravated murders, espionage, terrorism, etc.

During The Execution

Different states have different methods of execution, and lethal injection is the most common form. Several states use the three-drug protocol including anesthetic, pancuronium bromide (paralytic), and potassium chloride to stop the heart. Meanwhile, there are 8 states that use a single-drug protocol that inflicts an overdose of a single anesthetic. There are some states that allow other methods than just lethal cocktails. For example, electrocution is the death sentence for treason in Vermont or for other crimes in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee. As for Arizona and California, they use lethal gas to execute their prisoners while the firing squad is used in Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah. Hanging is also a method, and it is a form of execution in Delaware.


image: ZaldyImg

Execution Method: Lethal Injections

In Vietnam, capital punishment is legal for 18 crimes such as corruption, drug offenses, murder, rape, etc. Before the lethal cocktail, the firing squad of 7 policemen was the punishment until it was replaced in 2011. The Ministry of Health will provide the drugs at the request of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Public Security. Death penalty in Vietnam does not apply to juvenile offenders, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and those who are 75 or older. Instead, the convicts will receive life imprisonment for the crimes that they committed.

During The Execution

The convicts will receive a combination of three lethal drugs for their capital punishment. The first dose causes unconsciousness, the second paralyzes the musculoskeletal system, and the third stops the heart from beating. On the execution date, the executioner prepares 3 lethal doses for the injections. If the heart is still beating 10 minutes after the first dose, the executioner will administer the second dose. In case the doses do not work, the third one will. If the convict is still alive 10 minutes after the third dose, the execution will be temporarily suspended. The doctor will report the state of the prisoner to the council responsible for the death sentence.

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