EU and UN Respond After Controversial Execution

EU and UN Respond After Controversial Execution

( – A jury convicted Kenneth Eugene Smith in 1989 of the murder of Elizabeth Sennett the year prior. While he fought the conviction for many years — having it overturned once — he eventually ran out of legal measures. In November 2022, the state of Alabama tried to execute him via lethal injection but couldn’t attach the intravenous execution line. The state finally put him to death on January 25, but the European Union and UN Human Rights Office had a lot to say on the matter.

On January 26, the day after Smith died via nitrogen hypoxia — suffocation by the administration of pure nitrogen gas — the EU and UN issued statements. The EU said it “deeply regrets” Smith’s execution as it “strongly opposes the death penalty at all times and in all circumstances.” It then attacked the method used, saying it’s a “particularly cruel and unusual punishment” and the first time the US used the method of capital punishment.

Likewise, the UN Human Rights chief, Volker Turk, said he “deeply regret[s]” Smith’s death, especially by the “novel and untested method of suffocation,” according to Reuters. Both the EU and the UN called for the United States to do away with the death penalty altogether. The EU applauded the 29 states that have abolished capital punishment but expressed concern that states that still use the method carried out more executions last year than in the years prior.

Smith had been on death row for quite some time. He had previously requested the method of nitrogen hypoxia but later changed his mind, saying Alabama was traveling “backwards” in administering it. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the appeal to halt the execution on Thursday, January 24.

Guards strapped Smith down to a gurney and placed a mask over his face. At the appointed time, an executioner administered 100% nitrogen gas through the mask. A medical attendant pronounced Smith dead at 8:25 p.m.

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