Death by stoning: a 21st century guide

Hi! How’s your criminal justice system looking these days? Failing? Considering a new penal strategy? Well then, why not consider adding tried-and-tested “Death by Stoning”?

death by stoning

Convicts are often buried to their waist or neck

You’ll be in great company! Just look at all these countries who mete out stoning as acceptable punishment: Afghanistan; Nigeria; Somalia; and although there is little official information, reports have also been received of stoning sentences effected in Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi-Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In Iran, it is alleged that attempts are underway to write stoning out of the nation’s statutes, but hey – there are still at least 10 people in custody (9 women) awaiting their deaths, and this month in Iran, another two stoning sentences have been upheld by the District Court of Appeals.

Stoning is all the rage! Check out this report stating that 83% of Pakistanis believe stoning is an appropriate punishment for adultery; and consider Indonesia, where the Aceh province has as recently as September 2009 ratified their implementation of Sharia Law permitting a sentence of death by stoning.

You may be thinking ‘adultery’ is a bit of a narrow criterion for settling on when to inflict stoning. Want to use it more often to keep women in their place? NO PROBLEM! Use stoning to silence women who claim to have been raped, or who have been forced into prostitution! In addition, when we say ‘adultery’, this is not just limited to sex WHILE married, oh no! Women who are not yet married and fall in love with a boy of the wrong religious group, or who have BEEN married and are now divorced can also be taught a lesson they will never forget!

adulterer in stoning pit

Somalian stoning pit - man is buried to chest

Interested? Here’s how to carry out an effective stoning. The best thing about a stoning is that it is a deliberately cruel form of execution that the whole community can participate in. The family, including the children of the person-to-be-stoned, are brought along to witness their shame. Optionally, prepare a hole or pit for your criminal to stand in and then back-fill the hole so that they are held in place up to their waist, chest or (for women) the neck. Alternatively, tie your wrongdoer to a post or tree. Ensure your execution squad (local members of the community, or members of rival gangs will suffice) are equipped with stones the size of a man’s fist for maximum effectiveness. Remember, the point of stoning is for when shooting is too good for the condemned person, they need to be made to suffer first.

Article 104 of the Law of Hodoud provides that the stones should not be so large that a person dies after being hit with two of them, nor so small as to be defined as pebbles, but must cause severe injury. This makes it clear that the purpose of stoning is to inflict grievous pain on the victim, in a process leading to his or her slow death. (Source: Stoning to Death in Iran: A Crime Against Humanity Carried Out By the Mullahs’ Regime)

You may have been confused by rumours of a clause in Sharia Law allowing your captives to be ‘let off the hook’ should they manage to escape their stoning pits alive. We can’t deny this has happened, however rest assured that the execution mob will rarely allow the evildoer to get away, and will most likely pursue the escapee and return them to the place of execution in order to finish the job. Here are a few examples from Iran from the same case study as above:

On August 10, 1994, in the city of Arak, a woman was sentenced to death by stoning. According to the ruling of the religious judge, her husband and two children were forced to attend the execution. The woman urged her husband to take the children away, but to no avail. A truck full of stones was brought in to be used during the stoning. In the middle of the stoning, although her eyes had been gouged out, the victim was able to escape from the ditch and started running away, but the regime’s guards recaptured her and shot her to death.

In October 1989 in the city of Qom, a woman who was being stoned managed to pull herself out of the hole, only to be forced back into it and stoned to death.

If you require further guidance, there’s video footage on the internet too – all you need to do is enter the words ‘death by stoning’ in the search engine of your choice.

Warning: some subversive organisations worldwide are trying to spoil these nations’ right to inflict fear, oppression, pain, torture, cruelty and death by raising awareness of and campaigning AGAINST stoning. Here are a few to watch out for:

Amnesty International

The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women

Apostates of Islam

Additional note: I composed this blog post as a reminder that ALL capital punishment in the world today is vile and barbarian. When we consider the death penalty, we usually think immediately of the travesty of the USA’s death rows. Capital punishment is unacceptable whatever form it takes and wherever it occurs, and dehumanises those who sanction or champion its use.

California and Kentucky: Now is the time for action.

Everybody can take action TODAY against the death penalty in the USA. Both California and Kentucky are undergoing public scrutiny of lethal injection protocols. Members of the public (including out-of-state and overseas) can use this opportunity to respond to the Department of Corrections for each state.

California deadline: January 20th. Please see ‘Events and Action’ page, above or go straight to Death Penalty Focus’s website where they give advice on how to get your message in front of the CDCR and Governor Schwarzenegger.

Kentucky Deadline: February 1st 2010. As before, please bookmark our ‘Events and Action’ page or go straight to KCADP’s website for more information and guidelines.

In both cases, your letter should refer specifically to the proposed new protocols, but you should also use the opportunity to give your own detailed reasons why the State should not continue with the death penalty. Make your letter as long as you want! KCADP gives some very good guidance on talking points you can use, and Death Penalty Focus’ “10 reasons to oppose the Death Penalty” is highly recommended: a classic set of arguments to arm yourself with.

By law, the DoC is duty-bound to read every letter and to write a substantive personal response. Please note that California in particular has been noted for failing to do this and giving a cursory reply so if no response is forthcoming in due course please don’t be shy to follow up and ask for one – or contact Death Penalty Focus or KCADP and let them know.

On optimism and the death penalty

This evening I was delighted to learn that @TheOptimismClub had received a nomination for a “Shorty” award, after only 14 days in existence. “I don’t know what good it will do. Just one nomination”, said our sponsor, @favourini, “out of 700 for the ‘non-profit’ category.” I was touched. I’d nominated @innocenceblog (The Innocence Project) a few days earlier, happy to promote a little known but entirely deserving cause and lend to its prominence on the Twitter stage.

Then I reflected. Awards are wonderful. The promotional power of a nomination is a compelling reason to seek even more and to recruit further supporters to the cause in the process. But it’s early days for The Optimism Club. We have work to do. Instead of an award, it would be reward enough to see our efforts and the efforts of all those working alongside us to end capital punishment around the world paying off. And I’m nothing if not optimistic that if we take action we’ll be reaping all kinds of rewards in the months and years to come.

So take note! You read it here first!

Hurray for the end of the Death Penalty!

Hurray for the end of the Death Penalty!

  • In 2010, more countries will abandon the death penalty, Last year, Burundi and Togo took the world total number of abolitionist nations to 139.
  • In 2010, more States will reject the death penalty. Last year, New Mexico became the 15th of the United States to repeal it.
  • In 2010, Troy Davis will be exonerated and released from death row in Georgia, after serving over 20 years for a crime he did not commit. His evidentiary hearing will prove actual innocence in a case that makes history and challenges the constitution itself.
  • In  2010, Reprieve will successfully secure the lives and safety of several British and EU citizens suffering at the hand of injustice overseas.
  • Within the next decade, under pressure from its own constitutional lawyers, international human rights organisations and financial considerations, the USA will have abandoned the death penalty right across the board. Texas may well have seceded from the Federation of course (I speak wryly, with apologies to Stand Down Texas and the Texas Moratorium Network and all the other good folk campaigning hard in that State)
  • Within the next century, capital punishment, mutilation and torture will no longer be tolerated around the world. Some countries will have made steps towards addressing and overhauling criminal justice systems in progressive and significant terms. The planet will have significant challenges to face, but the society of mankind will have moved on.

With your help.

If Britain still had the death penalty…

BBC News:Sean Hodgson in Payout for ‘millions’
(Published on the BBC News website Monday 11th Jan 2010)
Compensation to a County Durham man who spent 27 years in jail for a murder he did not commit could run into the millions, the BBC has learned.

The conviction of Sean Hodgson from Tow Law for killing Teresa De Simone, 22, in Southampton in 1979 was quashed after new DNA evidence came to light. He is pursuing compensation from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Forensic Science Service and Hampshire police.

The MoJ said it could not comment on individual claims. Read more

Welcome to The Optimism Club

Vigil by Candlelight for Akmal Shaikh

Vigil for Akmal Shaikh (Getty Images 2009)

The Optimism Club was born on December 29th 2009, in the early hours of the morning, as a group of loosely-connected people across Twitter and Facebook did what they could to raise awareness of the plight and impending execution of Akmal Shaikh, a Briton suspected of being mentally ill who was duped into trafficking drugs into China. As the morning wore on, hope of his reprieve faded, but the energy created amongst that community was unforgettable. One young tweeter I met that night who was repeatedly posting and re-tweeting links in a passionate and optimistic hope that even at this late hour the Chinese government would show clemency and stay the execution, inspired me with her beseeching earnestness. It made me smile to see such positivity. I wanted to bottle it. I suggested to the young woman, jokingly, that we were founder members of the Optimism Club. And the idea stuck.

Having been interested in the subject of the death penalty and researching for my personal blog for some months, I decided to kick off a new channel to gather and propagate facts, resources and news to give people the tools they need to discuss worldwide death penalty issues in an informed and consistent way; The Optimism Club aims to contribute to the growing worldwide opposition to capital punishment by informing people and promoting action wherever possible. Optimism in itself is a wonderful quality; but it needs to be matched with action in order for us to see progress. So at this site I will post news of conferences, protests, petitions, campaigns and fundraisers. Want to help fight one small corner of the massive global effort towards achieving universal justice and equal rights for human beings everywhere? The Optimism Club hopes to give you some pointers.

In the words of @_Weava, an active blogger, tweeter and campaigner for Iranian justice, “I’ll take the risk that my voice has very little influence and see if I can’t add a note or two to the global choir”.

The objective of this blogsite is to create a repository for articles, links, news etc. Submissions are most welcome – and I will be delighted to link to your website if you wish to contact me at

Please stay tuned for more news, information, events and resources