A mock execution
is a method of psychological torture
, whereby the subject is made to believe that he is being led to his execution. This usually involves blindfolding
the subject, making him recount last wishes, or making him dig his own grave
, and sometimes it can go as far as forcing the victim to watch a single or multiple real executions taking place under the same circumstances to make the victim believe he or she is next. Discharging a firearm near (but not at) the victim, or firing blanks
, might end the mock execution.
It is hoped that by making the subject believe that he is to be executed they will be inflicted with severe psychological trauma. This may eventually lead to a break down where valuable information could be extracted, or it might act as a warning that future infractions may bring about a real execution.
Alternatively, a mock execution can be carried out where both a "shooter" and a "victim" collaborate with an interrogator who hopes to coerce a statement out of a subject who is forced to watch. Mock executions are popular in fiction as easy suspense can be created by having the protagonist subjected to what turns out to be only a mock execution, such as in the Spike Lee movie Inside Man, or V for Vendetta.
- In 1849, several Russian dissidents of Petrashevsky circle, including the famous writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky became victims of a now famous case of a mock execution; the pardon of the Czar was not read to them until the moment when the firing squad was already aiming their rifles at them. This traumatizing experience also shows up in Dostoyevsky literary works.
- On 23 March 2007, eight British servicemen were detained for three days, after Iran said they had entered Iranian territorial waters, which Britain denied. They were released unharmed, but during their detention, according to former detainee Marine Scott Fallon, they endured a mock execution.
- Reports of mock executions carried out by the US Marines on detainees in Iraq have surfaced in December 2004, as the ACLU published internal documents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The documents were written seven weeks after the publication of the photographs which triggered the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.
Examples in fiction
- In the Leo Tolstoy novel War and Peace, Pierre Bezukhov is led to believe that he has been sentenced to death when Napoleon’s soldiers force him to watch the execution of Russian captives.
- In the 1987 film The Untouchables, during a raid on the Canadian border, one of Al Capone’s bookkeepers agrees to provide Eliot Ness with information after Sean Connery’s character, Jim Malone, pretends to kill the bookkeeper’s friend by putting a gun in his mouth and blowing the back of his head off. The bookkeeper did not know that his friend was already dead. He witnessed the shooting through a window, and Malone made the point of saying, “…I won't ask you again. What's the matter. Can't you talk with a gun in your mouth? One... two... three...”, to explain why the man was not speaking.
- An episode of the dark comedy series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia centers around the main characters being taken hostage and forced to compete in order to "survive". Near the end of the episode, they are taken to the roof of their bar and held at gunpoint. Their captors then drop their shotguns, revealed to be rubber replicas, and leave the roof, which is a single story high, via a fire escape.
- In both the novel and movie versions of Fight Club, mock executions are carried out by members of Project Mayhem, and referred to as "human sacrifices."
- In the TV series, 24, Jack Bauer gets terrorist Syed Ali to reveal the location of a nuclear bomb in terrorist hands by carrying out a mock execution of Ali's son and then threatening to "execute" the rest of his family.
- In the Simpsons episode The Frying Game, Homer get what he thought was death when it turns out to be a reality televison show.
- In The Gods Must Be Crazy a man is blindfolded and led into a helicopter. Minutes later he is pushed out the open door, unaware he is only a few feet above the ground.
- In one of the earliest episodes of the crime-drama series The Sopranos, a mock execution is performed on the character Christopher Moltisanti.