Arizona bishops in the US concerned about gas chamber executions

The bishops of Arizona (United States) expressed concern about the State’s decision to resume executions from September or October, including the possibility of using the gas chamber.

Documents obtained by The Guardian show that the Arizona Department of Corrections spent more than $ 2,000 on the elements needed to make hydrogen cyanide, the same gas that was used in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.

The documents also reveal that the state has renovated its gas chamber for executions.

Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA, the English language agency of the ICA Group, that “the bishops of Arizona are very concerned that executions may resume from September or October after a pause of seven years for litigation ”.

“We are very concerned because we believe that the death penalty contributes to a culture of death, among other things, and our opposition remains firm,” he added.

In 2018, Pope Francis ordered a revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and defined that the death penalty is “inadmissible” and is also “an attack on the dignity of the person.”

Bishop Daniel Flores, Bishop of Brownsville and the next head of the doctrine committee of the US Episcopate, said that the death penalty is part of the “culture of discarding” rejected many times by Pope Francis.

In a statement on CBS News, the Arizona Department of Corrections expressed its intention to resume executions.

The department indicated that it is “prepared to assume its legal obligation and initiate the execution process as part of a legally imposed sentence, regardless of the method chosen. (The department) stands ready, with the Arizona attorney general’s office, to carry out the mandates of the courts and ensure justice for the families of the victims. “

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The statement highlights that Arizona law allows those sentenced to death to choose between lethal injection or gas chamber.

According to official figures, in Arizona 37 people have been executed since 1976 and another 119 are sentenced to death. The last executed was Joseph Wood who died in 2014.

Arizona is one of 27 states, as well as the federal government, that still allows the use of the death penalty. The Trump Administration executed 13 prisoners in the last year, after 20 years without the federal government resorting to this measure.

In Arizona the gas chamber was last used in 1999, according to The New York Times.

Christoph Heubner, executive vice president of the Auschwitz International Committee, told the US newspaper that for the survivors of the concentration camp “the world will have finally fallen apart if somewhere ZyklonB is considered again to kill human beings.”

Translated and adapted by Walter Sánchez Silva. Originally posted on CNA

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