UN Experts Decry Alabama’s Plan to Use Untested Execution Method

January 3, 2024 | The United Nations shared in a press release that a group of experts who volunteer their skills to advise the UN Human Rights Council on specific issues across the world were “alarmed” at the possibility that Alabama might use the untested method of nitrogen hypoxia to execute Kenneth (Kenny) Eugene Smith on January 25.

Nitrogen hypoxia is a process in which an individual is fitted with a mask and forced to breathe pure nitrogen gas. Without oxygen flowing through the airways, the body will be slowly deprived of this element which is necessary for all tissue functions, and the person will die.

The state plans to test this never-before-used method on Kenny in its second attempt to take his life. (The first attempt failed after corrections officials spent hours working unsuccessfully to set an intravenous line for his lethal injection.)

“‘We are concerned that nitrogen hypoxia would result in a painful and humiliating death,’ the experts said. They warned that experimental executions by gas asphyxiation – such as nitrogen hypoxia – will likely violate the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.”

There is a super-majority in the UN General Assembly that opposes capital punishment throughout the world. In December 2022, a historic 125 nations voted “yes” on the bi-annual United Nations resolution calling for a universal moratorium on the death penalty. The U.S. maintained its historical “no” vote, despite being urged to support the resolution by dozens of faith leaders, death row exonerees, civil rights groups, and political leaders.

Read the UN Press Release here.

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