Unspeakable Times
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10 Gruesome Execution Methods You Won't Believe Still Happen Around The World

Updated November 15, 2018 407.6k views10 items

Capital punishment is a hot-button issue - especially in the United States. While well over half the states in the US still employ the death penalty, executions are becoming less frequent due to legal challenges and drug shortages. While much hand-wringing and debate occur domestically about lethal injection possibly being cruel and unusual punishment, a more global perspective illustrates that there are inhumane executions taking place all over the globe. Foreign nations can employ more painful deaths for those charged with capital crimes. These punishments are administered at a state-level - or at the hands of extremists - and are known to display primitive cruelty in the modern world.

  • Lethal Injection

    Photo: Dead Man Walking (1995) / Gramercy Pictures / via YouTube / Fair Use

    Considered to be the most humane form of capital punishment, lethal injection is a commonly used method of execution in China, Guatemala, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. As of 2018, 31 states in America authorize death by lethal injection, which has been used widely since the late 1970s. This execution method is thought to be more efficient than the antiquated electric chair and gas chamber options - both of which are still legal, albeit in only a handful of states

    On August 14, 2018, US state Nebraska executed Carey Dean Moore, a man who shot two cab drivers 40 years prior; he was one of the country's longest-serving death row prisoners. Nebraska lawmakers abolished the death penalty in 2015, but Republican Governor Pete Ricketts had it restored in 2016. The state used an unprecedented combination of four lethal drugs to terminate Moore, including fentanyl. It was the state's first lethal injection and its first implemented death penalty since 1997.

    While in the United States ethical debates and drug shortages stall planned executions, China has streamlined the process. As the world leader in capital punishment, China uses mobile police buses to carry out sentences - a process reminiscent of the "gas wagons" used in Occupied Germany. These ambulance-like vehicles offer quick on-the-go executions. This expedited process also allows for more efficient organ donations - 65 percent of organ transplants in China come from executed prisoners, a reportedly involuntary donation.

  • The Gallows

    Photo: PhotoguyClay / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0

    While it may seem like a dated practice, prisoners are still put to death via hanging. This occurs in more than 50 countries, including the US, where it's still legal in New Hampshire and Washington but rarely used. The last occurrence was in Delaware for the 1996 execution of Billy Bailey

    The reason this implementation of death has stood the test of time is likely because it’s cost-effective and efficient, requiring little else than some rope and a tall structure. There are two techniques of hanging still carried out today. 

    First, there is the more humane long-drop technique - used to execute Saddam Hussein in 2006 - in which the condemned is dropped at enough of a distance for the rope to snap their necks when it goes taut, causing instant termination. And then there is the other, more brutal short-drop technique, which causes extended strangulation. 

  • Firing Squads

    The concept of death by firing squad may seem like something out of a film, but this method of execution is hardly cinematic fiction. As of 2012, this form of capital punishment is still used in 28 countries, including the US, plus dozens more that allow general shootings. 

    Firing squads are allegedly the execution method of choice in North Korea, based on video evidence smuggled out of the country. China has also relied on the technique until a court ruling in 2010 deemed fatal injection more humane. 

    Domestically, the state of Utah reintroduced firing squads in 2015 as a method of capital punishment because of the difficulty in obtaining drugs for injections. In 2017, Mississippi did the same. The two states, in addition to Oklahoma, allow squads as a last resort. 

  • Nitric Acid Baths

    ISIS - a fundamentalist military group based in Iraq - takes public executions to an unprecedented level. In May 2016, the occupying terrorist force executed 25 people in Mosul, Iraq, thought to be Iraqi spies. This act itself is not unusual for ISIS, but the method of execution was particularly gruesome: the captured were all put into a vat of nitric acid

    Nitric acid is a colorless liquid that is incredibly corrosive to the human body. During this execution, the prisoners were tied together and slowly placed in a large basin of the acid. The condemned were not completely submerged, but rather dipped just enough in the liquid to dissolve their organs, causing a reportedly agonizing death.