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A Batista firing squad in Cuba

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.

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 practices the death penalty—the single-executioner shooting inherited from the Soviet past is still in use.


Soviet BlocEdit

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.

The most common method was the firing of a pistol bullet ("nine grammes 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 takes place.[citation needed] Even after the break up of the Soviet Union, people continued to be executed by shooting. The 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 StatesEdit

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 a pistol shot in the back of the neck or a shot by an rifle in the back from behind.[1] More recent executions have been private and carried out using lethal injection.[3] Hong Kong abolished the death penalty and Macau never had death penalty before handover, and didn't restore it when they became an autonomous territory of China.
  • 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.[4]
  • In Indonesia, capital punishment is administered by a firing squad which aims for the heart. The number of blanks and live bullets is known. Three live bullets are used. The remaining rounds are blanks.[5]
  • In Mongolia, the method of execution before abolition in 2012 was a bullet to the neck[6] from a .38 revolver, a method inherited from Soviet legislation. (See Capital punishment in Mongolia) Earlier Mongolia was a part of China.
  • 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 19 October 2001, a single executioner would shoot the convict in the back from a mounted machine gun.[7][8] In 1979 a Thai woman named Ginggaew was executed only to wake up and walk. She was thus shot a second time. [9]
  • 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.[10]

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ Online, Asia Time. "Asia Times Online :: China News - China's mobile death fleet". 
  4. ^ # ^ Sahib: The British Soldier in India 1750-1914 Richard Holmes HarperCollins 2005
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ “Le président mongol veut abolir la peine de mort”, Le Monde, January 14, 2009
  7. ^ Thailand Department of Corrections: Death Penalty penalty.htm Archived 2008-01-11 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "Executioner". 
  9. ^
  10. ^ 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 linksEdit