Execution by shooting

Execution by shooting is a method of capital punishment in which a person is shot to death 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.

Execution by shooting
A Batista firing squad executing a revolutionary in Cuba, 1956.
Method ofCapital punishment

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—among them Belarus, the only state in Europe today that has the death penalty—the single executioner shooting inherited from the Soviet past is still in use.


Although Brazil abolished the death penalty, it can be used for the occurrence of certain crimes in a period of war, such as betrayal, conspiracy, mutiny, unauthorized retreating in battles and theft of equipment or supplies in a military base.[2][3] The execution method in this case is execution by shooting.[2][4]


In Belarus executions are performed by a single executioner shooting the back of the head from behind with a pistol.[5]

Soviet Bloc

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 the single-executioner approach. The firing squad, with its solemn and lengthy ceremony was used infrequently.

The most common method was the firing of a pistol bullet ("nine grams of lead") into the back of the head.

This method was widely used during the Great Purges of the late 1930s at locations outside the major cities, e.g. Krasny Bor near Petrozavodsk, against purportedly anti-social elements, "counter-revolutionaries" and other Enemies of the People.

It was also used in the execution of those who had committed ordinary criminal offences. On occasion, it is said, the person to be executed was led through a series of corridors, not knowing when or where the shot would take place. Even after the breakup of the Soviet Union, people continued to be executed by shooting. Mass murderer Andrei Chikatilo was executed in this way in 1994, just before Russia halted use of the death penalty as part of its accession to the Council of Europe.

The phrase "execution by firing squad" is often incorrectly used to translate the Russian term расстрел (translit. rasstrel). This, in general, describes any form of shooting, regardless of method, though it is more likely to refer to the single executioner who fires a bullet to the back of the head than to a firing squad.

United Kingdom

No British citizen has ever been executed for a civilian crime by shooting. A Royal Commission on Capital Punishment considered shooting as a possible alternative to hanging, although the findings published in 1953 concluded shooting was not sufficiently effective a means of execution to justify a switch to the method from hanging.

United States

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.[6]


  • Bahrain uses firing squads for execution.[7]
  • In the People's Republic of China, shooting as a method of execution takes two typical formats, either a pistol shot in the back of the head or neck or a shot by a rifle in either the back or the back of the head from behind.[1] Some more recent executions have been private and carried out using lethal injection, though shooting is still more frequently used.[8][9] Hong Kong abolished the death penalty and Macau never had the death penalty prior to the handover, and neither restored it when they returned to Chinese sovereignty.
  • 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.[10]
  • In Indonesia, capital punishment is administered by a firing squad which aims for the heart.[11]
  • In Mongolia, the method of execution before abolition in 2012 was a bullet to the back of a head[12] from a .38 caliber revolver, a method inherited from Soviet legislation. (See Capital punishment in Mongolia.) Executions before 2012 were mostly done in China.
  • Executions by shooting have occurred in Myanmar.[13]
  • In North Korea, executions are carried out by firing squad in public, making North Korea one of four countries that continue performing public executions.[14]
  • Oman uses firing squads for execution.[15]
  • 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 a strong anesthetic to leave them completely senseless (see capital punishment in Taiwan).
  • In Thailand from 1934 until 2003, a single executioner would shoot the convict in the back from a mounted machine gun.[16][17] In 1979 a Thai woman named Ginggaew was executed only to wake up and walk. She was then shot a second time.[18] Executions are now done by lethal injection.[19]
  • Shooting is the primary method of execution in the United Arab Emirates.[20]
  • Shooting is the primary method of execution in Yemen.[21]
  • Shooting is used in Saudi Arabia and in ISIL territories, but beheadings are more common.

See also



  1. Clark, Richard (2006). "Shot at dawn!". Capital Punishment U.K. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
  2. "Afinal, existe pena de morte no Brasil?". Jusbrasil (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  3. "Art. 5, inc. XLVII, "a" da Constituição Federal de 88". Jusbrasil. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  4. "Lei brasileira ainda prevê pena de morte; saiba quando pode ser aplicada". Gazeta do Povo (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  5. Gypsy Laborer Faces Execution In Belarus CBS News, October 13, 2009
  6. 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)
  7. "Bahrain executes three Shi'ites for bombing, sparks outcry". January 15, 2017. Retrieved October 10, 2019 via www.reuters.com.
  8. "陕西米脂杀9名学生罪犯赵泽伟被执行枪决_手机网易网". 3g.163.com. September 27, 2018. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
  9. "China's mobile death fleet". Asia Times.
    1. ^ Sahib: The British Soldier in India 1750-1914 Richard Holmes HarperCollins 2005
  10. 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.
  11. “Le président mongol veut abolir la peine de mort”, Le Monde, January 14, 2009
  12. "Executions worldwide this month". www.capitalpunishmentuk.org. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
  13. 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.
  14. Amnesty Intl., Death Penalty, MDE 20/002/2001, May 8, 2001.
  15. "Thailand Department of Corrections: Death Penalty". Archived from the original on 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
  16. "Executioner".
  17. "The Last Executioner". August 13, 2007. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
  18. Ltd.Thailand, VOICE TV. "ความตายในรอบ 9 ปี 'ราชทัณฑ์' ประหารชีวิตนักโทษชาย คดีฆ่าชิงทรัพย์". VoiceTV. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
  19. "Man who raped, killed eight-year-old boy Obaida executed". gulfnews.com. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
  20. "Executions worldwide this month". www.capitalpunishmentuk.org. Retrieved October 10, 2019.


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