O The state of Alabama (south) executed Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58 years old, with nitrogen gas on Thursday, a method used for the first time and the target of international criticism.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, said in a statement that execution by nitrogen inhalation “may constitute torture.”
“I deeply regret the execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith in Alabama, despite serious concerns that this untried method of nitrogen asphyxiation may constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” Turk said.
The High Commissioner stated that the death penalty “is incompatible with the fundamental right to life”.
“I urge all States to adopt a moratorium on its application, as a step towards universal abolition”, he added in the statement, cited by the French agency AFP.
The EU also deplored Smith’s execution by asphyxiation with nitrogen gas, which it considered to be a “particularly cruel and unusual” method, according to a statement cited by the Spanish agency Europa Press.
EU diplomacy recalled that Smith had already survived a failed lethal injection in November 2022.
Regarding the application of the death penalty in the United States, the EU expressed concern about the increase in executions in 2023, when the death penalty was applied to 24 people in five North American states.
“We call on states that maintain the death penalty to apply a moratorium and move towards abolition, in line with global trends,” he said.
The EU welcomed the fact that 29 North American states have already abolished the death penalty or implemented moratoriums on executions.
European diplomacy reiterated its firm opposition to the death penalty “at all times and in all circumstances”.
“This is a violation of the right to life and the supreme denial of human dignity” which “does not deter crime”, he stated.
He also considered that “it represents a supreme punishment that makes errors of justice irreversible”, recalling that 196 innocent people were exonerated from capital punishment in the country when they were on death row.
Execution with nitrogen gas was criticized by experts as experimental and potentially painful, and dangerous for the condemned and those present in court.
Smith, who had been on death row for three decades, was convicted in 1988 of the contract murder of Elizabeth Sennett.
The victim’s husband, Charles Sennett, hired several men to kill his wife and make her believe she had died in a robbery.
Her husband committed suicide a week later, when investigations focused on him.
Smith was later arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
Read Also: Alabama carries out first execution with nitrogen gas in the United States
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