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Cruel and unusual punishment is a statement implying that governments shall not inflict suffering or humiliation on the condemned as punishment for crimes, regardless of their degree of severity. It was founded in the English Bill of Rights, which was signed in 1689 by King William III and Queen Mary II, who were then the joint rulers of England, Scotland, and Ireland following the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688.

These exact words later appeared in the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1787). The British Slavery Amelioration Act of 1798 also used the term, forbidding slave owners from using "cruel and unusual punishment" on slaves in the British Caribbean colonies.

Very similar words ('No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment') appear in Article Five of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/217, December 10, 1948). The right, under a different formulation ('No one shall be subjected to [...] inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.') is found in Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights (1950). The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) also contains this fundamental right in section 12 and it is to be found again in Article Four (quoting the European Convention verbatim) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000). It is also found in Article 16 of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

History

For most of recorded history, capital punishments were often deliberately painful. Severe historical penalties include the breaking wheel, boiling to death, flaying, disembowelment, crucifixion, impalement, crushing, stoning, execution by burning, dismemberment, sawing, scaphism, or necklacing.

Impalement was a method of torture and execution whereby a person is pierced with a long stake. The penetration can be through the sides, from the rectum, or through the mouth. This method would lead to a slow and painful death. Often, the victim was hoisted into the air after partial impalement. Gravity and the victim's own struggles would cause him to slide down the pole, especially if the pole were on a wagon carrying war prizes and prisoners. Death could take many days. Impalement was frequently practiced in Asia and Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Vlad III the Impaler, who learned the method of killing by impalement while staying in Constantinoplemarker as a prisoner, and Ivan the Terrible have passed into legend as major users of the method.

The breaking wheel was a torturous capital punishment device used in the Middle Ages and early modern times for public execution by cudgeling to death, especially in France and Germany. In France the condemned were placed on a cart-wheel with their limbs stretched out along the spokes over two sturdy wooden beams. The wheel was made to revolve slowly. Through the openings between the spokes, the executioner hit the victim with an iron hammer that could easily break the victim's bones. This process was repeated several times per limb. Once his bones were broken, he was left on the wheel to die. It could take hours, even days, before shock and dehydration caused death. The punishment was abolished in Germany as late as 1827.

See also



References

General
Specific
  1. Revenge Is the Mother of Invention
  2. Dracula - Britannica Concise
  3. Breaking on the wheel - LoveToKnow 1911
  4. Rhona K.M. Smith, Textbook on International Human Rights, second edition, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 245.


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