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IBAHRI calls on Alabama to halt execution

24 Jan 2024 / global news Print

IBAHRI calls on Alabama to halt execution

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has called for the planned execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith in the US state of Alabama to be stopped.

The state’s authorities intend to end his life tomorrow (25 January) by what the IBAHRI describes as “an untested method of execution”, nitrogen hypoxia – the forced inhalation of nitrogen gas.

The human-rights body says that the method is the first newly suggested approach to the death penalty to be employed in the US since the introduction of lethal injection in 1982.

Judicial override

The IBAHRI adds that some US states are reported to be seeking different ways to execute prisoners since the medicines needed for fatal injections – the most popular method – are getting harder to locate.

Smith was found guilty in 1996 of killing someone for pay in 1988. The jury voted to recommend life imprisonment without parole, but the judge overrode the jury recommendation and sentenced him to death.

In 2017, Alabama abolished the practice of judicial override, but this was not applied retroactively to defendants convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death before this date.

In November 2022, Alabama authorities attempted and failed to execute Smith by lethal injection, unsuccessfully trying to find a vein to insert an intravenous line.

Unresolved proceedings

According to the United Nations Human Rights Office, Smith has ongoing, unresolved proceedings in federal court against his upcoming execution.

IBAHRI co-chair Anne Ramberg described the use of experimental capital-punishment methods based as “an affront to human dignity, transparency, and the right to life”.

Co-chair Mark Stephens also expressed concern that two other US states – Oklahoma and Mississippi – had also authorised nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method.

“With the world moving towards universal abolition, we call on US officials at state and federal levels to reconsider the application of the death penalty, and to introduce an immediate moratorium on its use, with a view to abolition,” he concluded.

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