Executions are not completely painless, says UN expert

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Juan Mendez

To what extend the death penalty can infringe on the absolute prohibition of torture, is the theme of a report presented to the General Assembly on Tuesday by a United Nations independent expert.

Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture said the issue is complicated because international law does not prohibit the death penalty although it discourages it.

The expert said the phenomenon of death row by itself tends to generate pain and suffering that rises to the level of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and even in some cases torture.

According to Mr. Mendez, methods of execution cannot be discounted as being completely painless.

"In fact there are several reasons why some methods of execution like stoning and beheading are now completely prohibited whereas there is serious discussion about other methods of executions: firing squad, hanging and lethal injection. There are serious debates about whether, in fact, they are supposed to be painless as some people say. I should say gas chambers have also been authoritatively ruled as being contrary to the prohibition on torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."

(Duration 28")

Mr. Mendez said that there is now a trend towards the abolition of the death penalty around the world.

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