UN Anti-Death Penalty Initiative Could Hurt U.S. Execution Drug Supply
NEW YORK — European nations announced an initiative at the United Nations Monday that could damage the supply of lethal injection drugs needed for inmate executions.
Known as the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade, the group is composed of European nations as well as other countries in South America, Africa, and Asia — totaling about 60 nations who want to halt the trade of products that could be used for “torture” or a country’s death penalty.
“The aim is to stop trading goods that can be used for torture or death penalty. And this is of course an optimal timing to do it here when the General Assembly meets with the joint political declaration,” EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström told reporters late Monday afternoon.
Malmström went on to say, “So this alliance is a way to take concrete action…We talk about products that you can buy today in the open market. It can be a metal spike batons. They could be electric tools grabbers used to grab people by the neck and electrocute them — shock belts. We talk about poison cocktails. Chemicals used to execute people.”
According to the group’s website, “The purpose of this global alliance is to make it significantly more difficult to obtain products intended for carrying out the death penalty and commit torture.”
At the launch Monday, participants in the Alliance were expected to sign a political declaration.
When asked by The Daily Caller if the initiative was created in an effort against the U.S. death penalty policy, Malmström replied:
“No. It is not an initiative against any country. It is an initiative in favor of those countries who want to work to prohibit those products both for torture and that can be used for death penalty. And we hope of course that other countries will join later and even for those who haven’t joined. I think getting information the more statistics about the phenomena could be useful for them as well. So it’s not targeted against anybody.”
The United States currently has a federal death penalty, which was reinstated back in 1988, and 19 states do not have the death penalty. Since 1976, 32 states as well as the US government used lethal injection as their primary method of execution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
During this 41-year period, 1,285 death row inmates were executed by lethal injection and 158 were put to death via electrocution. Eleven were executed by the gas chamber, three were hanged, and three were killed by firing squad.
But executions and new death sentences in the U.S. have been dipping recently. Just 20 death row prisoners in five states were executed in 2016, the lowest number in 25 years, The Times and Democrat reported. The paper noted the short supply of lethal injection drugs is a big reason for the decline in executions across the country.
In 2015, Texas found itself nearly wiped out of lethal injection drugs like sodium thiopental after European countries placed an embargo on the drugs from being sent to the United States, The Independent reported.
The United Kingdom did its embargo in 2010 and the European Union followed thereafter in 2011 by placing poisons on a catalogue of controlled exports that could be used as “capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
“The decision today contributes to the wider EU efforts to abolish the death penalty worldwide,” Catherine Ashton, the vice president of the Commission at the time.
More recently, Hospira, the only U.S. company allowed to make the sodium thiopental, announced it will no longer do so, the Council of State Governments reported back in July. The company attempted to move to a plant in Italy, but international anti-death penalty activists have pressured the Italian government to intervene.