The European Commission announced a restriction on drugs produced by European manufacturers for use in lethal injection executions. The restriction marks a widening of the gulf between the capital punishment policy of Europe and the United States.
A lethal injection room in Alabama (Photo courtesy of The Guardian)
The drug, sodium thiopental, is a sedative commonly used in administering executions. It can only be exported from Europe after authorization by national authorities.
The reason for the restriction is to “prevent their use for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The move was cheered by opponents of the death penalty.
The restriction forbids the sale of the drug to countries that practice the death penalty. It is consistent with the opposition to the death penalty expressed in the European Charter: “[T]he European Union opposes the death penalty under all circumstances. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states that no one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed. In this regard, the decision today contributes to the wider EU efforts to abolish the death penalty worldwide.”
The impact of the regulation is yet to be known in countries that practice the death penalty. States like Ohio, Texas, and Georgia that execute people often have taken to using alternative drugs and looking to other countries overseas to meet its demand. Switching to the use of alternative drugs, however, places a burden on states that want to perform lethal injections by complicating the process of obtaining the drugs.
Tuesday’s announcement is effort to cut the supply of drugs for executions. In April, Great Britain announced a ban on exportation to the U.S. of three drugs used for lethal injections. An Indian pharmaceutical manufacturer that supplied sodium thiopental to Nebraska announced it would stop supplying the drug to American prison officials. In July, a Danish manufacturer attempted to quell the sale of its drug for executions by making its distributors promise they would not use the drug for that purpose.
Europe’s new regulation will make it more difficult for prisons to replenish supplies in the future. It is also difficult for regulators to promise that the drugs will not be sold to prison through the back door. In order to prevent manufacturers from circumventing the regulations, the European Council has retained the power to add other drugs to the ban as it sees fit.
In the United States, lethal injections have become the main method of executions in recent years.
Since 2007, the E.U. has called for a worldwide halt on the death penalty.
Via Impunity Watch.