The UN assures that the first execution by nitrogen gas in the United States “could amount to torture”

For the first time in the United States, a prisoner was executed using nitrogen gas this week. The trial was conducted in Alabama and sparked a wave of criticism as well as opposition from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Volker Turk. “I deeply regret the execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith in Alabama,” said Turk, who also recalled “concerns that this novel and untested method of nitrogen gas asphyxiation may amount to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.”

A similar reaction came from the European Union, where its spokesman, Peter Stanohas described this new method of execution as “particularly cruel and unusual punishment” and asserted that the Union is pleased that in recent years at least 29 States of the North American country have removed this modality from their criminal lists.

Smith, 45, was not allowed to eat from 11 a.m. local time on Thursday because he feared he would vomit. The day before, the inmate had eaten steak, French fries and eggs for dinner. His death began at 8:25 p.m. local time (2:25 a.m. in Spain) on Thursday.

Little is known about how it all happened, but officials had previously explained that it involved a process that involved putting a mask on the detainee that covered the nose and mouth and replacing the air with nitrogen gas, until the person dies from lack of oxygen. The technique arouses suspicion among many European and American scientists, who do not support the method for ethical reasons.

Smith, who was convicted of contract killing a woman in 1988, survived lethal injection in 2022, which is why authorities resorted to this form of capital punishment. Previously, nitrogen gas asphyxiation had only been tested on animals and they were given a sedative before the execution so that they would not suffer. Only two other states allow this type of punishment, Oklahoma and Mississippi, but neither of them have used this technique yet.

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