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UN raises alert over US nitrogen-gas execution, says it could be torture

Jan 17

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The United Nations Human Rights Office has expressed apprehension over Alabama‘s plan to conduct an execution using nitrogen gas, stating that it could potentially amount to torture. Kenneth Eugene Smith has been on death row since 1996. He will be the first person executed by Alabama’s nitrogen hypoxia method in the U.S. Alabama canceled its previous attempt to execute Smith by lethal injection in 2022 due to issues with intravenous lines.

The UN Human Rights Office is urging Alabama to reconsider the planned execution, emphasizing that the use of nitrogen gas has not been employed before in the United States for human executions.

According to Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends sedation for large animals euthanized with nitrogen gas, but Alabama’s protocol lacks provisions for human sedation before execution.

“Nitrogen gas has never been used in the United States to execute human beings,” Shamdasani said. “The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends giving even large animals a sedative when being euthanized in this manner, while Alabama’s protocol for execution by nitrogen asphyxiation makes no provision for sedation of human beings prior to execution.”

Smith’s legal team characterizes his impending execution as an experiment. In response, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office dismissed concerns, arguing that the nitrogen gas method would induce unconsciousness within seconds and lead to death within minutes.

The UN contends that the death penalty is inconsistent with the fundamental right to life and violates international law, as outlined in the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

On Monday, Jan. 15, Smith’s attorneys sought an appeals court’s intervention to block the execution, with arguments scheduled for Friday, Jan. 19.

Smith, along with an accomplice, was convicted in 1996 for the murder-for-hire of a preacher’s wife in 1988. Prosecutors stated that both men were paid $1,000 to kill Elizabeth Sennett. Smith’s accomplice, John Forrest Parker, was executed in 2010 by lethal injection.

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[Lauren Taylor]

IS A NEW FORM OF EXECUTION IN THE U-S ACTUALLY A FORM OF TORTURE? 

THAT’S WHAT THE UNITED NATIONS IS SAYING AS ALABAMA PREPARES TO CARRY OUT A DEATH SENTENCE NEXT WEEK.

KENNETH EUGENE SMITH –  A MAN WHO HAS BEEN ON DEATH ROW SINCE 1996 –  IS SET TO BE THE FIRST PERSON EXECUTED IN THE U-S USING ALABAMA’S NITROGEN HYPOXIA METHOD.

ALABAMA ATTEMPTED TO EXECUTE SMITH BY LETHAL INJECTION IN 20-22 BUT CANCELED BECAUSE OF A PROBLEM WITH INTRAVENOUS LINES — THEIR THIRD FAILED EXECUTION SINCE 20-18.

NOW — THE U-N HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE IS URGING ALABAMA TO STOP THE PLANNED EXECUTION — SAYING IT COULD AMOUNT TO TORTURE 

RAVINA SHAMDASANI, UN HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE

Nitrogen gas has never been used in the United States to execute human beings. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends giving even large animals a sedative when being euthanized in this manner, while Alabama’s protocol for execution by nitrogen asphyxiation makes no provision for sedation of human beings prior to execution.

[Lauren Taylor]

SMITHS LAWYERS CALL HIS EXECUTION AN EXPERIMENT.

THE ALABAMA ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE DISMISSED CONCERNS ARGUING THAT THE NITROGEN GAS METHOD WOULD ‘INDUCE UNCONSCIOUSNESS WITHIN SECONDS AND LEAD TO DEATH WITHIN MINUTES.’

WHILE THE U-N SAYS CLAIMS THE DEATH PENALTY IS INCONSISTENT WITH THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT OF LIFE AND VIOLATES INTERNATIONAL LAW.

RAVINA SHAMDASANI, SPOKESPERSON FOR THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE

These are rights set out in two International Human Rights treaties where the United States is bound by – these include the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

[Lauren Taylor]

ON MONDAY – SMITH’S ATTORNEYS REQUESTED AN APPEALS COURT TO BLOCK HIS EXECUTION. ARGUMENTS ARE SET FOR FRIDAY.