UN asks to stop first execution in the US by nitrogen asphyxiation

The United States will carry out the first execution of a person sentenced to death through nitrogen hypoxia (asphyxiation with this gas) on January 25, an unprecedented method that can cause serious suffering to the prisoner, United Nations human rights experts denounced today.

The state of Alabama, in the southern United States, plans to use this technique with Kenneth Eugene Smithsentenced to death for more than three decades for murder.

Despite being included in the Alabama Execution Protocol, experts consider that this method should be reviewed before being put into practice, since it could cause Smith a “painful and humiliating” death, due to the absence of scientific evidence to demonstrate otherwise.

”Experimental executions by gas asphyxiation will likely violate the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment,” they noted.

If the execution occurs, Smith will be forced to breathe only nitrogen, which will deprive his brain and other tissues of oxygen, causing his death.

The UN experts also expressed their concern about the continuation of executions in the United States, which they believe go against the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.

”Poorly prepared executions, lack of transparency of protocols of execution and the use of unproven drugs to execute prisoners in the United States have continually drawn the attention of the UN mechanisms,” the experts recalled.

This declaration has been signed by the UN rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Morris Tidball-Binz; on torture, Alice Jill Edwards; on the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Tlaeng Mofokeng, and on the independence of judges and lawyers, Margaret Satterthwaite.