UN rapporteurs warn of execution by nitrogen inhalation in the

UN rapporteurs warn of execution by nitrogen inhalation in the USA O Dia

Published on March 1, 2024 2:00 p.m

Four UN rapporteurs expressed concern this Wednesday 3rd about the impending execution by nitrogen of a person sentenced to death in the United States, warning that this method, unprecedented in the world, could cause “severe suffering”. This type of method results in death due to hypoxia or lack of oxygen.

The United Nations' independent experts said in a statement that “there is no scientific evidence” that the method can be carried out without serious suffering. The communication was signed by Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Morris TidballBinz, Alice Jill Edwards, Margaret Satterthwaite and Tlaleng Mofokeng.

According to them, the state of Alabama in the southern United States is planning to execute Kenneth Smith on January 25th.

“It will be the first fullscale test of nitrogen hypoxia,” say the rapporteurs, who received their mandate from the United Nations Human Rights Council but do not speak on behalf of the organization. “We fear that nitrogen hypoxia will lead to a painful and humiliating death,” they emphasized.

In his opinion, “experimental executions by gas asphyxiation, such as nitrogen hypoxia, would likely violate the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments.” Therefore, they called on federal and state authorities in Alabama to suspend Smith's execution and all others with it method to suspend planned executions pending review of the protocol.

In November 2022, Smith's execution by lethal injection for a 1988 contract killing was canceled at the last minute because the intravenous droppers used to inject the lethal solution could not be administered to the condemned within the legally required time.

The death sentence sparked controversy.

In 1988, an unfaithful and heavily indebted husband hired him and another hitman to kill his wife in a staged robbery. Despite the man's suicide, the police followed the trail of the two murderers. Smith was sentenced to death in an initial trial, but this was overturned on appeal.

At a second trial in 1996, he was again found guilty of murder, but the jury was divided on the verdict: 11 of the 12 recommended life sentences. The judge disregarded the jury's decision and imposed the death penalty, which was legal at the time but is now banned throughout the country.

On this basis, his lawyers asked the Supreme Court of the United States this Wednesday to stay the execution, but the Supreme Court rejected their appeal.