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IPFS News Link • Criminal Justice System

How the world executes its worst criminals:


The dramatic uptick of capital punishment in recent years, and the brutality of methods still used around the world, has thrust state-sanctioned executions back into the spotlight.

China's murky record is brought into focus by wide reports alleging thousands are killed each year in a horrifying 'conveyer belt' of death, the Chinese Communist Party embracing anachronisms including firing squads and mobile death vans to expedite state executions. 

But the United States has also come under fire for its use of capital punishment, with rights groups increasingly alarmed by an upward trend in the number of murderers put to death in recent years.

Today both East and West deploy techniques that involve shock, injury and gas - in some cases leaving the condemned person to suffer for more than half hour before dropping dead.

And a multipolar world with hardline governments in the Middle East has seen the return of methods of mass executions by stoning and beheading with a sword. In 2020, 88 per cent of all known executions were carried out in just four countries: Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

As rights groups warn of the rising prevalence of capital punishment, and critics slam the inhumanity of modern means, MailOnline looks at the ways the world still executes its worst criminals.


The majority of state executions in Saudi Arabia are still carried out by sword decapitation. It is a particularly bloody and violent means of capital punishment only carried out by Saudi Arabia - and can be used for a variety of crimes including murder, apostasy (abandoning Islam), homosexuality, witchcraft or sorcery, and 'waging war on God'.

While in the US the death penalty is being used less and less, interest in Saudi practices has grown alongside the rate of capital punishment. On March 12 2022, 81 people were beheaded - the largest mass execution in recent years, despite promises to limit use of such measures.