UK government bans export of execution drugs

By agency reporter
April 15, 2011

The legal charity Reprieve has welcomed the announcement by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills that it is introducing controls on the export of drugs to the US for use in lethal injections.

Mark Prisk, the Minister with responsibility for small businesses and enterprise, has written to Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, to confirm that the Government will put in place measures to stop the export of three drugs for use in killing prisoners.

The move follows the Government’s recent decision, following legal action from Reprieve, to place an emergency export control on sodium thiopental – an anaesthetic which had been purchased by US prisons from the UK for use in lethal injections.

The UK Government now intends to control exports to the US of:

•Pancuronium bromide – a muscle relaxant and the second of a three-drug execution ‘cocktail’ used by many states.
•Potassium chloride – the third part of the ‘cocktail’, used to stop the heart.
•Sodium pentobarbital – a barbiturate more commonly used to put down animals but seeing increasing use in US executions as supplies of sodium thiopental become scarce.

Reprieve's Director Clive Stafford Smith said: '"Britain has now taken the lead in ending complicity in the US death penalty, which is very welcome. Since the US executing states are now turning to a Danish company, Lundbeck, to kill people, we must hope that the UK can persuade our EU partners to take a similar line."


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