10 torturous types of punishment that are still legal in the world

You might think that our modern world has long moved on from barbaric and torturous punishment. However, many violent means of execution are still practised, making us question whether humanity has truly progressed in terms of ethics.

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1. Flogging

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This is a punishment where a person is beaten with a whip or a rod – quite a common punishment in the 19th century. Eventually, it was replaced by other forms of punishment, such as imprisonment.

Flogging is seen as a cruel form of punishment condemned by various international organisations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International. It has also been outlawed in many countries, however, some countries still continue the practice. In countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Sudan, flogging can be issued to men, women, and children even for minor crimes. Flogging also happens often in public.

In 2014, A man named Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1000 lashes and ten years of imprisonment for “insulting Islam” online. Despite worldwide outcry, flogging is considered an acceptable form of punishment today.

2. Caning

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Caning is quite similar to flogging, in that a person is beaten with a cane. Scarring from canning can occur as strikes from canning can break the skin. Although it is widely condemned, canning is still practiced in some countries.

In the Republic of Singapore, 2,203 caning sentences were carried out in 2012 alone. Many of those caned were illegal immigrants and vandals. Two German students studying in Singapore were imprisoned for 9 months and given three strokes of cane each after they were caught vandalising on the train with spray-paint recently.

Various human rights groups protest against caning as a form of punishment. An international charter also condemns degrading forms of punishment, but there are still countries that still practise this form of punishment.

3. Solitary Confinement

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This might not be the first form of punishment that comes to mind when we think of harsh punishments. However, many believe that solitary confinement is a kind of barbaric punishment as it has negative psychological and mental effects.

Prisoners in solitary confinements are completely isolated. This punishment is usually placed on extremely dangerous criminals, who stay in their cell 22-23 hours a day. Only one hour is allocated for outdoor recreation for these prisoners.

United Nations and human rights groups have denounced solitary confinement as a form of punishment. Nonetheless, it is still practised in various countries, including the United States with 80 000 prisoners in solitary confinement.

Prisoners are said to experience “the absence of normal social interaction, of reasonable mental stimulus, of exposure to the natural world, of almost everything that makes life human and bearable . . . [it] is emotionally, physically, and psychologically destructive.”

4. Dismemberment

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Dismemberment as a punishment is an extremely terrifying form of punishment as it results in the removal of any appendage.

Some cases of dismemberment are conducted in a medical environment by doctors, while convicts are operated on while they lay unconscious. In other instances, however, dismemberment may be conducted without aesthetic causing convicts to be in deep pain.

In Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Sudan, hands and feet of convicts are often dismembered. Thieves’ hands are to be cut off under Islamic Sharia Law, while “cross amputation” is carried out on convicts who are guilty of armed robbery. In these cases, the right hand and the left foot are being amputated.

Many international rights groups believe that dismemberment as a punishment is a form of torture that goes against human rights. However, countries that implement the Sharia Law continue to carry out such punishments.

5. Blinding

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Governed by Sharia Law, Iran practices “qesas” (a law that allows physical revenge on the convicted) against those who commit violence. This punishment is quite literally based on the belief of “an eye for an eye”. Hence, physical punishments, including blinding, can be administered to convicts.

Oftentimes, perpetrators of victims who were left blinded will receive this form of punishment. In Iran, this is not an uncommon practice since acid attacks that seek to blind and disfigure others are often carried out. Perpetrators who are caught will be blinded in one or both eyes, either through acid or gouging. This form of punishment is similarly practised in Saudi Arabia.

6. Beheading

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Beheading is still being administered today, shockingly enough. The Islamic State (ISIS) is known to behead their enemies, or anyone who is deemed to be against them. Executions are often carried out in the public eye, filmed, and uploaded online.

As a terror group, these extreme forms of punishment is to, some extent, expected to be meted out by ISIS. However, there is also a nation recognised by the international community that still practices beheading. Saudi Arabia, a country that strictly follows the Sharia Law, allows beading to be carried out against criminals who commit serious crimes such as rape, murder, and traffic drugs. In Saudi Arabia, the convict’s head is being decapitated in public.

In 2015 alone, 157 people were executed and many of which were beheaded. International communities have put pressure on Saudi Arabia but the rates of beheading still seas a steady rise in the country.

7. Stoning

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In this punishment, stopes are thrown at the convicted until they are dead. In Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Yemen, stoning is still carried out today. In other countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, and Malaysia, stoning is also carried out although it is supposedly illegal to do so.

Usually, those punished by stoning are individuals who are caught for committing adultery. Although it takes 2 to commit an adultery, women are usually the ones who are punished through stoning. In 2008, a young girl was stoned to death in Somalia with thousands of people watching. Amnesty International stated that the girl was only 13 years old and was convicted of adultery after she reported to the Islamist group that she was raped.

8. Crucifixion

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The convicted is nailed to the cross and left to die a slow death in this form of punishment. Death through crucifixion is extremely painful and those convicted take hours, and some even days, to die.

Besides ISIS, Saudi Arabia also practises crucifixion as it is recognised as a legal form of execution. A 17 year old boy, Ali al-Nimr, was sentenced to crucifixion as he was part of anti-government protests. Crucifixions in Saudi Arabia takes place after death and the dead body is being shown in public in order to serve as a warning. Amnesty International has called it “the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

9. Premature Burial

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With the expansion of the Islamic State, people are sentenced to premature burial. They are buried alive and die a torturous, traumatic death.

In 2014, it was reported that ISIS militants had used this form of execution against the Yazidi minority group when they were resisting the Islamic State. Of those punished, many of them were women and children. Besides burying resistors, ISIS was also reported to bury their own fighters who fled in battles.

Premature burial was also reportedly carried out in Turkey. A 16 year old girl was killed through premature burial by her family in their garden as practice of “honour killing.” The Turkish government has been trying to stop these honour killings, where girls or women are killed because they are thought to bring disgrace to their family. Honour killings take place as families believe that by doing so, the honour of the family can be restored. This practice is somewhat rare, but is nonetheless still being practised in Turkey today.

10. Death by Burning

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This form of execution was commonplace in the medieval times, often reserved as a punishment for those who practise witchcraft, heresy and treason. In today’s world, this form of execution is still practised in some places. Hundreds of people have been burned alive by ISIS, while many of these deaths were being filmed and put online. In 2014, 26 year old Moaz al-Kasabeh, a captured pilot from Jordan, died through this painful and torturous execution.

Besides ISIS, many villagers in Kenya also continue to practise this form of punishment against those suspected of witchcraft. In areas where law enforcement is problematic, many choose to take matters into their own hands and carry out these horrific executions.

In 2015, Guatemala, a 16 year old girl was burned alive as she was accused of murdering a taxi driver. Similarly, in 2016, a man accused of robbery was also burned alive in Venezuela.

Although civilisations have modernised and many have abandoned cruel acts of punishment, death by burning is still carried out in various parts of the world.

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