Death by firing squad is a form of execution usually reserved for military personnel. The concept is simple: a prisoner either stands or sits against a brick wall or some other heavy barrier. Five or more soldiers line up side by side several feet away, and each one aims their firearm directly at the prisoner’s heart. Upon hearing a cue called out by a senior officer, all of the shooters fire simultaneously.
In most cases, the prisoner will be blindfolded when they are placed before the firing squad. On some occasions, people have requested not to have their eyes covered so that they may watch their executioners, but this is rare. The blindfold is often as much for the benefit of the executioners as it is for the prisoner. When the condemned person is able to look directly at the members of the firing squad, it greatly reduces the executioners’ anonymity, creating a more stressful situation for those simply fulfilling their duty.
Although each firing squad member must fire, one of the shooters usually receives a gun with a blank. This ensures that no one in the group is able to know for sure which of them fired the fatal round. On several occasions, the condemned party has been hit by several bullets and lived. When this happens, a final shooter dispatches the person at close range.
Years ago, armies used firing squads to dispose of soldiers who performed traitorous acts or who refused to participate in the war effort. It was also standard punishment for military personnel who committed violent crimes such as rape or the murder of innocent civilians. While this procedure has since faded in modern times, it is still considered to be a legal procedure for dealing with criminal soldiers and political figures in many countries.
Firing squads are not reserved solely for people serving in the military. Some armies have used this method to slaughter citizens of countries they were invading. The victims of these death squads are most often buried in mass graves following the shootings. This heinous act is considered to be a crime against humanity and may be punishable by the International Criminal Court.
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