Despite humanization processes, there is still place for cruel and unusual punishment. There are jurisdictions, where beheading is legally enforced punishment. Organ harvesting, whether legal or illegal, takes place in China. Also, gas chamber and electrocution are practiced in some countries, including the United States. The paper describes these forms of executions, explains for which kind of offenses they can be imposed, clemency process, and outlines categories of offenders that can be excluded from the death penalty.
Cruel and Unusual Punishments
The words cruel and unusual are two terms many will find associated with capital punishment system around the world. Those who oppose the death penalty feel that it has been hard for the world to agree on a fixed definition thus leaving the meaning wide open for self interruption. This self interruption is how countries around the world justify the way they punish capital offenders, but it sparks the debate of what is perceived as cruel and humane. Indeed, beheadings are associated with Middle Ages and with cruel king Henry VIII who ordered the decapitation of his two wives. A select few people are aware that cruel punishment is still quite widespread. Only human rights organizations and researchers are aware that brutal punishment practices are still legally enforced. This paper is devoted to observation of these practices. Specifically, it addresses such types of punishment as decapitation (beheading), gas chamber and electrocution.
Decapitation or beheading is a form of capital punishment once used by many nations around the world. Due to the Beheading individuals for a crime they had committed can be traced back thousands of years, it was practiced in ancient Greece and Rome. Beheading was the preferred method of execution because everyone had a sword or axe readily available to carry out the execution at a moment's notices. In ancient Greece and Rome beheading was regarded as less dishonorable and less painful form of execution. Also, beheading was widespread in Japan and China. Beheading was also used in Europe the middle ages and in the modern period. Today decapitation remains an official form of punishment in Saudi Arabia. Beheading remains a lawful form of punishment in Yemen and Qatar, although no executions are reported (capitalpunishmentuk.org).
In Saudi Arabia beheading is practiced as punishment for murder, rape, drug trafficking, sodomy, armed robbery, apostasy (abandonment of religion or political belief), sorcery and certain other offenses. In 2013 78 people were beheaded in Saudi Arabia (NDTV). It is reported that the latest executions occurred in February 2014. Abdulellah al-Otaibi was executed in Taif after having been convicted of stabbing the member of his own tribe (NDTV). Nasser al-Qahtani was executed in the Asir region after having been convicted of shooting to death another man.
The sentenced to decapitation in Saudi Arabia are usually given tranquillizers and then delivered by police van to the place of public execution. Their eyes are covered and a plastic sheet of about 16 feet square is laid down to the place of execution. The convicted are dressed either in white robe or their own clothes. They are barefoot with hands cuffed behind their back and feet shackled. The convicted are made to kneel by the police officers. Their faces are turned to Mecca. The prisoner’s name and his crime read to the crowd. Beheading is carried out by executioner with Arab scimitar – the traditional sword. The prisoner is then decapitated with the single swing of the scimitar. The burial of the convicted usually takes place in an unmarked prison cemetery.
In Saudi Arabia some categories of offenders are excluded from death penalty and thus from decapitation. Thus, capital punishment is not imposed on children who have not attained the age of majority in accordance with Islamic law. Also, pregnant women and women with small children are