Several international organizations have commented on various methods of execution, condoning them or calling for more humane treatment where the death penalty is used. The Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty provides that “where capital punishment occurs, it shall be carried out so as to inflict the minimum possible suffering.” Moreover, in its General Comment 20, the Committee recognized that when the death penalty is imposed, it must be carried out in a manner to cause “the least possible physical and mental suffering.” Nonetheless, human rights bodies have generally avoided deciding whether specific methods of execution constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. One exception is the Human Rights Committee, which held in Ng v. Canada, Communication No. 469/1991, para. 16.4, that execution by gas asphyxiation amounted to cruel and inhuman treatment. The United Nations Human Rights Commission also noted that execution by stoning was a “particularly cruel or inhuman means of execution” (Resolution 2005/29: The Question of the Death Penalty, para. 7(i)).
Many commentators have pointed out that mental and physical suffering are an unavoidable consequence of the death penalty. In their view, all punishments involve a certain degree of pain and suffering, and for that reason it cannot be said that all methods of execution violate international human rights norms. In the Ng case, the Human Rights Committee determined that any suffering that lasted more than 10 minutes was unacceptable: “In the present case, the author has provided detailed information that execution by gas asphyxiation may cause prolonged suffering and agony and does not result in death as swiftly as possible, as asphyxiation by cyanide gas may take over 10 minutes.” This is an inherently subjective assessment, and some commentators have questioned whether capital punishment itself should be considered cruel and inhuman....
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