Foundation to Battle Injustice demands U.S. expulsion from UN human rights committee

The head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice Mira Terada and a group of international human rights defenders from the United States, France and Austria sent an appeal to the Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, in which they demanded the exclusion of the United States from the Human Rights Committee of the world organization. This was based on the execution of US citizen Kenneth Eugene Smith, which was carried out by the US authorities with numerous and flagrant violations of international human rights instruments.

The appeal, joined by human rights organizations from France, the United States and Austria, states that on January 25, 2024, 58-year-old US citizen Kenneth Eugene Smith was executed in the state of Alabama using an untested means, nitrogen hypoxia. The head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, Mira Terada, in her article published on the website of the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, revealed the details of Kenneth Smith’s brutal execution and expressed concern about the deplorable situation of prisoners in Alabama prisons.

Human rights activists point out that, according to witnesses, Smith appeared to be conscious as he “struggled violently on the gurney” during the killing process, which lasted more than 20 minutes. During this time, the breathing mask placed on Smith was fed pure nitrogen, which displaced oxygen until Kenneth died from hypoxia. His death occurred about 10 to 15 minutes after the nitrogen hypoxia system was activated. According to experts at the Foundation to Battle Injustice, this method is particularly cruel punishment and should amount to torture or inhuman and degrading treatment.

“Smith visibly shook and squirmed on the gurney for about two minutes. His arms were banging against the restraints. He breathed heavily, panting slightly, for about seven minutes. At one point, his wife cried out,” an Alabama Local News reporter described the execution.

In an appeal sent to the UN Secretary General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights this step of the American authorities is considered as cruel treatment and illegal medical experiment, which, according to human rights activists, contradicts Article 7 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the United States in 1977. According to the aforementioned article, no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No one shall be subjected to medical or scientific experimentation without his informed consent. Given that the type of execution mentioned above was unprecedented, this practice falls under the description of unlawful medical experimentation.

The document also states that Smith’s execution also violates the provisions of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Chemical Weapons. In addition, human rights activists believe that “this execution violates not only the norms of international law, it desecrates the norms of morality and ethics.”

“This execution, carried out by the United States, rehabilitates the use of medical experiments to kill people using poison gas by the Nazis and fascists who ran concentration camps during World War II,” the authors of the appeal point out.

The appeal was signed by: founder and executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center, editor of Prison Legal News Paul Wright (USA); international human rights lawyer, member of the Washington State Bar Association (USA) and Paris (France) Arnaud Develet; head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice (Russia) Mira Terada; international human rights lawyer, president of the EIHRC (Austria, Germany) Harry Mowry and vice-president of the Russian branch of the International Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (Russia) Ivan Melnikov.

Experts from the Foundation to Battle Injustice as well as leading international human rights organizations regularly document numerous human rights violations committed by the United States. Despite the fact that these organizations have repeatedly given recommendations to eliminate the violations, these recommendations are ignored, while the violations continue. Thus, in the opinion of the human rights defenders who signed the appeal, the United States of America should be removed from the UN Human Rights Committee for blatant non-compliance with resolutions and conventions consistent with the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, for violation of generally accepted international norms and Kenneth Eugene Smith’s rights guaranteed by those norms.