The death penalty is the most extreme consequence most people can think of for a crime. Therefore, it should be reserved for the most unconscionable of all crimes. At least, that’s what you would think. Not all countries are as liberal as those in what is considered the “first world”. Some countries consider petty crimes like theft, and public intoxication, extreme offenses worthy of the worst punishment possible. Of course, as always, that is only if you get caught. But would you be willing to risk death to steal a loaf of bread?
Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976, and only 32 states in the USA still uphold capital punishment for extreme cases. In Europe, Belarus and Kazakhstan are the only countries that still allow the death penalty, although it is rare.
Some people believe the death penalty is the only thing that murderers and rapists deserve, but others believe in forgiveness, and that an eye for an eye will not solve anything. Besides, what would be worse, death, or being confined in a single cell for the rest of your life? Prison in a lot of the countries that uphold the death penalty have the potential to be a lot worse than death. For some, the death penalty ends up being a form of mercy. Read on for 11 countries with the most extreme death penalty laws.
11. Saudi Arabia – Homosexuality
Saudi Arabia has no criminal code as traditionally, the legal system of Saudi Arabia has consisted of royal decrees and the legal opinions of Muslim judges and clerics, and not legal codes/written law. There is no such thing as LGBT rights, and even advocacy for them is considered illegal. Homosexuality (including transgenderism, cross-dressing, and sodomy) are all punishable by imprisonment, fines, chemical castrations, and capital punishment. There are also no laws against hate crimes and discrimination, so simply identifying as homosexual could put LGBT individuals in extreme danger. There have already been 9 executions for various reasons in 2015 in Saudi Arabia.
10. China – Tax fraud
The actual number of people executed in China is considered a state secret, but the number is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. A total of 55 crimes are punishable by death in China, including some non-violent crimes like embezzlement and tax fraud. Death sentences are usually handed down with a two year probationary period so the government can be sure of the prisoner’s guilt before executing them via firing squad or lethal injection. Polling in 2007 found that 58% of the population is in favour of capital punishment, but believe the government should release death penalty statistics to the public.
9. Iran – Execution of minors
The official crimes punishable by death in Iran are armed robbery, treason, murder, drug trafficking, rape, pedophilia, sodomy, kidnapping, and terrorism. Iran signed the Conventions on the Rights of the Child with the UN which prohibits the execution of offenders under 18, but they are still considered the largest executioner of minors in the world. They attribute this to a difference between a Muslim and non-Muslim minor. For murder cases, most death sentences are delayed for up to 5 years in order to allow the opportunity for the accused to pay “diyya” which is a private settlement claim between the victim’s family and the perpetrator.
8. Iraq – Coerced confessions leading to execution
While Saddam Hussein and his associates’ executions for crimes against humanity may seem like a reasonable use of the death penalty in Iraq, they are extreme examples. Other offenses punishable by death include murder, rape, espionage, and kidnapping. Although individuals over 70 years old are not legally supposed to be executed, in certain cases they are still sentenced to death. The main execution method in Iraq is hanging. There is also at least one known case of a minor being executed after claiming that he was tortured and coerced into signing a confession.
7. Yemen – Execution without trial
Yemen is another place where homosexuality is punishable by death. But the real problem in Yemen is not the official death penalty laws, but the extreme corruption of the government and its security forces. The police force has been responsible for inhumane treatment, torture, and even unnecessary executions of prisoners. At times there is no rhyme or reason for the incarceration of an individual, and they could find themselves in jail for long periods of time without legal basis. During these times execution could come unexpectedly and without explanation, and there is no way to stop it.
6. North Korea – Public execution
North Korea uses the death penalty for the obvious offenses like rape, murder, and treason, but those aren’t crimes most people have to worry about accidentally committing. The most extreme use of the death penalty is on people who consume media that is not approved by the government. That explains the problems the film, The Interview caused last year. Other things you can’t do in North Korea include possess a Bible, or distribute pornography (that includes lending your favourite video to a friend). Most executions are carried out by firing squad, and it is not unusual for them to happen in public.
5. Sudan – Prostitution
Another country where homosexuality (and also sodomy between heterosexual people) is punishable by death is Sudan. Adultery is also cause for capital punishment, as well as running a place for prostitution after three offenses. Women are often found guilt of adultery, buried up to their shoulders, and then stoned to death in a version of the death penalty called the hadd punishment. The Hadd punishment is used for offenses that are considered (according to the Qu’ran) to be against the rights of God.
4. Somalia – Adultery
As recently as September 2014, a woman in Somalia was found guilty of adultery in an informal court, and sentenced to be stoned to death. In 2008, a girl of only 13-years-old was arrested and accused of adultery, to which she confessed. She allegedly insisted that sharia law by applied to her case, which means the moral code and religious law of a prophetic religion (Islam) was the basis for her being sentenced to death. She was buried up to her neck and stoned the death in front of 1000 people. Later, Amnesty International learned that the girl had begged for mercy, and had actually been arrested after being gang raped by three men.
3. Afghanistan – Apostasy
Apostasy is the formal disaffiliation from, or abandonment or renunciation of, a religion by a person. In Afghanistan, turning your back on Islam is punishable by death. There are multiple verses in the Qu’ran that condemn apostasy, making it a law based on the interpretations of religion. Converting to another religion is also considered apostasy, so if you are born to Muslim parents and decide it isn’t for you, you are at risk of being arrested and executed. It is not even permitted to doubt a single aspect of Islam, either verbally or in writing. Officially, apostasy is still illegal in Afghanistan, but in recent years the U.S has been putting pressure on the government, which has delayed executions.
2. Syria – Honor killings
Although it is not considered a “death penalty” when men kill their wives, daughters, and sisters for “shaming” their family, honor killings are a form of capital punishment that Syrian women often face. The Syrian Civil War has been reported as leading to an increase in honor killings across the country because of the common occurrence of “war rape”. Rape victims are often stigmatized by their relatives and communities, leading to honor killings. Some estimate that over 200 honor killings occur per year in Syria.
1. Turkey – Forced to commit suicide
Forced suicide is used as a form of honor killing in Turkey. Surprisingly, the high occurrence of honor killings in the country is in large cities like Istanbul. The most common triggers of an honor killing are a woman having an extramarital affair, a young girl having a relationship with a man, and even a woman seeking a divorce. Young boys are often ordered to do the honor killing because they will receive a shorter prison sentence. In other cases, the person who is considered “dishonorable” is forced to commit suicide so no one has to face any legal consequences. The city of Batman has been nicknamed “Suicide City” because of its high rate of forced suicides.