Despite many countries abandoning capital punishment, the death penalty is still practiced around the world. And while the US has debated the constitutionality of lethal injection, other countries have no such scruples. Death by stoning, hanging, and even crucifixion is practiced in Middle Eastern countries, and in areas controlled by militant groups like ISIS (which are not necessarily accepted Sharia law punishments, which is a common misconception).
Even when offenders aren't being killed in many of these countries with the death penalty, they are punished harshly in ways that can't be considered anything other than cruel and unusual. Drug offenders and vandals are caned in Singapore, people are locked away in labor camps in North Korea, and criminals who commit petty theft have their hands chopped off in Iran and Saudi Arabia. These punishments are real—and are sometimes even carried out on tourists.Here are some of the most real, terrible punishments still carried out in countries around the world.
Hard Labor for Stealing a Poster, North Korea
North Korea has among the most restrictive and punitive legal systems in the world. Countless citizens languish in labor camps for minor offenses, or even for simply being related to a criminal. A few foreigners have been given labor sentences as well. The most recent was American student Otto Warmbier, given 15 years for the "crime" of stealing a propaganda poster. Warmbier was sent back to his family in 2017, but he was in a vegetative state and died just days later. Torture tactics are assumed to be responsible for Warmbier's condition.
Forced Amputation, Iran and Boko Haram
With no 8th Amendment to restrain them, a number of countries practice amputation as a punishment. In parts of Iran officials have chopped right hands off at the wrist as punishment for theft—with repeat offenders often losing their other hand, or even their legs.
Boko Haram goes even farther, with thieves or suspected enemies of Islam having their right hand and left foot cut off in a horrifying practice known as cross amputation, in which a hand and foot are cut off on opposite sides of the body.
Eye-Gouging, Saudia Arabia
Saudi Arabia is known to sentence people the Biblical punishment of having an eye put out. One such example took place in 2006, after an Indian man working in the country was involved in a brawl where a man's eye was gouged out.
The Indian man, in turn, was sentenced to have his eye put out. The man was eventually pardoned, and it's not clear if any of the eye gougings ever actually took place.
Caning as a form of corporal punishment has been legal in Singapore since the late 19th century, when it was colonized by England. Most of the developed world has made illegal physical brutality in punishment, Singapore still has caning on its books—and uses it.
Thousands of young men in Singapore have been sentenced to lashes on the buttocks with a cane, and the vast majority of them have been carried out. In fact, Singapore's legislature has increased the number of lashes that can be given, and those who wield the cane are specially trained in how to use it and how fast they can swing it. The punishment can result in excruciatingly painful blisters.