EU Statement

The European Union has criticized the U.S. state of Alabama for executing a convicted murderer using nitrogen gas. A method, they say, is a particularly cruel and unusual punishment. They further state they strongly oppose the death penalty at all times and in all circumstances. Adding that it is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate denial of human dignity.


Alabama executed Kenneth Eugene Smith on Thursday evening by administering pure nitrogen gas through a face mask. During the 22 minute execution, Smith “appeared to shake and convulse before ultimately passing away.

Making History

Alabama’s use of nitrogen gas for this execution marked the first use of this method in the country. Additionally, it was the first time in more than 30 years that a new execution method was introduced in the country. In the weeks leading up to the execution, Smith’s attorneys, human rights organizations and experts had expressed their concern with this method. Generally, these people all viewed this as an untested method of execution and potentially cruel. Ultimately, however, the U.S. Supreme Court  eventually authorized the execution to move forward as planned.

Criticism and Backlash

The EU sharply criticized the use of nitrogen gas, noting how experts believe this method is particularly a cruel and unusual punishment. Their 27-member committee also blasted the practice of using the death penalty, which is currently still legal in 27 U.S. states. Adding further that they are concerned about the increase in the number of executions in the U.S. This criticism is not unique to just the EU though, as many news outlets recently have criticized these new methods as well. They note that death sentences have fallen by about 90 percent since their mid-1990s peak, when more than 300 were imposed every year. In 1999, there were almost 100 executions nationwide and in 2021, there were only 11. However, the new Supreme Court seems to be heading the resurgence of the death penalty in states, leading many to criticize.

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