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EU slams Alabama for nitrogen gas execution

Alabama’s use of nitrogen gas in the execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith, a convicted murderer, has drawn strong criticism from the European Union. The EU, staunchly opposed to the death penalty, condemned the utilization of nitrogen gas as “particularly cruel and unusual punishment” and a violation of the fundamental right to life and human dignity. The execution, which involved administering pure nitrogen gas through a face mask, lasted 22 minutes, during which Smith reportedly “appeared to shake and convulse.”

This marked the first instance in the history of the United States where nitrogen gas was employed for an execution, introducing a new method after a hiatus of more than 30 years. In the lead-up to the execution, concerns were raised by Smith’s attorneys, human rights organizations, and experts, citing the untested nature of nitrogen gas as a potentially cruel method.

Despite the objections, the U.S. Supreme Court gave authorization for the execution to proceed. The EU’s rebuke extended beyond the specific case, expressing deep concern about the increasing number of executions in the U.S. The 27-member bloc reiterated its call for the universal abolition of the death penalty, urging states that still practice it to implement a moratorium and align with the global trend toward abolition.

It is noteworthy that Alabama had previously attempted to execute Smith, a 58-year-old convicted of murder-for-hire in 1988, using lethal injection in 2022. However, the execution was halted due to difficulties in connecting an IV line.

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