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UN Human Rights Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani on Alabama execution, Tuesday 16 January

At the Bi-weekly press briefing of the United Nations in Geneva, UN Human Rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani made the following comments on the Imminent execution by nitrogen asphyxiation in Alabama.

 

“We are alarmed by the imminent execution in the United States of Kenneth Eugene Smith, through the use of a novel and untested method – suffocation by nitrogen gas. This could amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under international human rights law,” Shamdasani said.

 

The UN Human Rights Office calls on Alabama state authorities to halt Smith’s execution, scheduled for 25-26 January in Alabama, and for the authorities to refrain from taking further steps towards any other executions in this manner. Alabama already sought to execute Smith unsuccessfully by lethal injection, in 2022, and he has ongoing proceedings in federal court against his upcoming execution, proceeding which have not been finally resolved.

 

“Nitrogen gas has never been used in the United States to execute human beings. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends giving even large animals a sedative when being euthanized in this manner, while Alabama’s protocol for execution by nitrogen asphyxiation makes no provision for sedation of human beings prior to execution. The protocol also refers to the odourless and colourless gas being administered for up to 15 minutes. Smith has also advanced, with expert evidence, that such an execution by gas asphyxiation in his case risks particular pain and suffering,” she said.

 

We have serious concerns that Smith’s execution in these circumstances could breach the prohibition on torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, as well as his right to effective remedies. These are rights set out in two International Human Rights treaties where the United States is bound by – these include the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” the spokesperson said.

 

The Human Rights Committee, which is the international body charged with monitoring the implementation of the Covenant around the world, has also criticized the use of asphyxiation by gas as an execution method, the use of untested methods, as well as widening the use of the death penalty in States that continue to apply it.

 

“The death penalty is inconsistent with the fundamental right to life. There is an absence of proof that it deters crime, and it creates an unacceptable risk of executing innocent people. Rather than inventing new ways to implement capital punishment, we urge all States to put in place a moratorium on its use, as a step towards universal abolition,” Shamsdasani said.

 

The UN’s position is very clear we are against the death penalty we are against people being killed for having committed crimes. There is an absence of evidence that this deters crimes in any way. On the other side, there is a lot of evidence that the death penalty has been used in cases of miscarriages of justice that it is used against people who later turn out to be innocent, that is used disproportionately against minorities, in the US against people of African descent, it’s disproportionately used against people who don’t have the mean to defend themselves with proper legal representation of their choosing,” the spokesperson said.

 

 

For more information and media requests, please contact: 

Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / ravina.shamdasani@un.org or 

Liz Throssell + 41 22 917 9296 / elizabeth.throssell@un.org or 

Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 marta.hurtadogomez@un.org

 

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STORY: UN Human Rights Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani on Imminent execution by nitrogen asphyxiation in Alabama

TRT: 02:59
SOURCE: OHCHR 
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGE: English/French / NATS
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9 
DATELINE:  16 January 2023 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
 

 

 

SHOTLIST 

 

  • Exterior shot: Wide shot entrance of Palais des Nations  
  • Wide Shot: Briefing room
  • SOUNDBITE (English) – Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR): “We are alarmed by the imminent execution in the United States of Kenneth Eugene Smith, through the use of a novel and untested method – suffocation by nitrogen gas. This could amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under international human rights law.”
  • Cut aways: Briefing room
  • SOUNDBITE (English) – Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR):  “Nitrogen gas has never been used in the United States to execute human beings. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends giving even large animals a sedative when being euthanized in this manner, while Alabama’s protocol for execution by nitrogen asphyxiation makes no provision for sedation of human beings prior to execution. The protocol also refers to the odourless and colourless gas being administered for up to 15 minutes. Smith has also advanced, with expert evidence, that such an execution by gas asphyxiation in his case risks particular pain and suffering.”
  • Cut aways: Briefing room
  • SOUNDBITE (English) – Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR): We have serious concerns that Smith’s execution in these circumstances could breach the prohibition on torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, as well as his right to effective remedies. These are rights set out in two International Human Rights treaties where the United States is bound by – these include the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”
  • Cut aways: Briefing room
  • SOUNDBITE (English) – Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR): “The death penalty is inconsistent with the fundamental right to life. There is an absence of proof that it deters crime, and it creates an unacceptable risk of executing innocent people. Rather than inventing new ways to implement capital punishment, we urge all States to put in place a moratorium on its use, as a step towards universal abolition.”
  • Cut aways: Briefing room
  • SOUNDBITE (English) – Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR):  The UN’s position is very clear we are against the death penalty, we are against people being killed for having committed crimes. There is an absence of evidence that this deters crimes in any way. On the other side, there is a lot of evidence that the death penalty has been used in cases of miscarriages of justice that it is used against people who later turn out to be innocent, that is used disproportionately against minorities, in the US against people of African descent, it’s disproportionately used against people who don’t have the mean to defend themselves with proper legal representation of their choosing.”
  • Cut aways: Briefing room
  • SOUNDBITE (English) – Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR): “ 
  • Cut aways: Briefing room


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