European Commission Bans Export of Drugs Used for Capital Punishment or Torture

Yesterday, the European Commission decided to restrict the export of thiopental or any barbiturates that can be used for “capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” This act by the European Union, in response to interventions and education by organizations like Amnesty International and Reprieve in the UK, is aimed directly at the United States and our states that still conduct executions.

Amnesty USA posted an article last week about the disturbing lengths states like Nebraska have gone to in order to obtain enough sodium thiopental (500 grams) for 166 executions, even though there are only 12 people on Nebraska’s death row. Naari, a Swiss-based drug company who the sodium thiopental was obtained from via a broker, is outraged that their product is going to be used for executions and have demanded it be returned to no avail.

The European Commission’s decision contributes to the wider European Union efforts to abolish the death penalty worldwide. This is a first step in response to the calls of advocacy organizations and the European Parliament to strengthen the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which states that no one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed. The Commission will carry out an in-depth review in 2012 and more drugs may be added to the list of prohibited exports.

Photo by Martin Rickett

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