Execution by shooting

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A Batista firing squad in Cuba

Execution by shooting is a method of capital punishment whereby an executed person is shot by one or more firearms. It is the most common method of execution worldwide, used in about 70 countries,[1] with execution by firing squad being one particular form. In most countries, execution by a firing squad has historically been considered a more honorable death and was used primarily for military personnel, though in some countries—including Belarus, the only country to practice the death penalty in Europe—single-executioner shooting is still in use.

Soviet block[edit]

In 20th century communist states, shooting was a standard form of execution of civilian and military prisoners alike, with the Soviet Union setting an example of single-executioner approach. The firing squad, with its usual solemn and lengthy ceremony was used infrequently, with the most common method being the unexpected firing of a pistol bullet into the back of the head. The person who was to be executed was often led through a series of corridors, not knowing when or where the shot takes place.

Often the phrase "execution by firing squad" is incorrectly used to translate the Russian term расстрел (translit. rasstrel), which, in general, refers to any form of shooting, either by a single executioner or a firing squad, regardless of method.

United States[edit]

Since 1608, about 142 men have been judicially shot in the United States and its English-speaking predecessor territories, excluding executions related to the American Civil War.[2]


  • In the People's Republic of China, shooting as a method of execution takes two typical formats, either an assault rifle shot in the back of the head or in the neck or a shot by an automatic rifle in the back from behind.[1]
  • In India, during the Mughal rule, soldiers who committed crimes were executed by being strapped to a cannon which was then fired. This was known as blowing from a gun. This method, invented by the Mughals, was continued by the British who used it to execute native deserters and mutineers, especially after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.[3]
  • In Indonesia, capital punishment is administered by a firing squad which aims for the heart. The number of blanks and live bullets are known. Three live bullets are used. The remaining rounds are blanks.[4]
  • In Mongolia, the method of execution before abolition in 2012 was a bullet to the neck[5] from a .38 revolver, a method inherited from Soviet legislation. (See Capital punishment in Mongolia)
  • In Taiwan, the customary method is a single shot aimed at the heart (or at the brain stem, if the prisoner consents to organ donation). Before the execution, the prisoner is injected with strong anaesthetic to leave them completely senseless. (See Capital punishment in Taiwan)
  • In Thailand from 1934 until 19 October 2001, a single executioner would shoot the convict in the back from a mounted machine gun.[6][7]
  • In North Korea, executions are carried out by firing squad in public, making North Korea one of the last four countries to perform public executions.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Clark, Richard (2006). "Shot at dawn!". Capital Punishment U.K. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  2. ^ M. Watt Espy and John Ortiz Smylka's database, "Executions in the U.S. 1608-2002: The Espy File." (Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research) [1]
  3. ^ # ^ Sahib: The British Soldier in India 1750-1914 Richard Holmes HarperCollins 2005
  4. ^ Cormack, Lucy (2015-01-17). "Drug traffickers in Indonesia face firing squad of 12 in first executions of 2015". SMH. SMH. Retrieved 2015-01-17. 
  5. ^ “Le président mongol veut abolir la peine de mort”, Le Monde, January 14, 2009
  6. ^ Thailand Department of Corrections: Death Penalty
  7. ^ The Free Press - Independent News Media - International Issues
  8. ^ Rogers, Simon; Chalabi, Mona (2013-12-13). "Death penalty statistics, country by country". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-12-13. Public executions were known to have been carried out in Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. 


  • Zelitch, Judah. "Soviet Administration of Criminal Law". University of Pennsylvania Press, 1931

External links[edit]