Bid to ban export of 'execution' drug

An attempt will be made at the High Court today to prevent a British company exporting a drug which could be used in the execution of US prisoners.

Solicitors representing two clients on Death Row and human rights group Reprieve are challenging Business Secretary Vince Cable's refusal to ban the overseas sale of sodium thiopental.

The strong painkiller is given as the first of a cocktail of three drugs used in US state lethal injections.

London-based solicitors firm Leigh Day & Co, acting for prisoners Edmund Zagorski and Ralph Baze, argue that Mr Cable's refusal was wrong in law.

Leigh Day says the case arises from the state execution in Arizona of Jeffrey Landrigan on October 25.

There was a delay in the execution caused by a shortage in the US of sodium thiopental.

A batch was obtained, and to assure the public of its quality the Attorney General of Arizona announced that it came from the UK.

On November 1, Mr Cable refused a Leigh Day request to use his powers under the Export Control Act to place an immediate ban on it being sold to the US for use in executions.

Mr Cable stated: "Sodium thiopental is a medicine. Its primary use is as an anaesthetic... Legitimate trade of medical value would be affected by any restriction on the export of this product from the UK."

Any ban would be ineffective, he added, because supplies could be obtained from elsewhere.

But anti-death penalty campaigners argue the refusal sits very uncomfortably with stated Government policy on actively seeking the abolition of the death penalty worldwide and, in particular, in the US.

Leigh Day's Richard Stein said: "Having failed to persuade Vince Cable that it is wrong for the UK to be facilitating the death penalty in the US, we hope that the High Court will now compel him to exercise the powers of export control which Parliament has granted him to prevent just this sort of violation of human rights.

"There is a list (of banned UK exports) which covers guillotines, gas chambers and electrocution equipment.

"We are simply asking Vince Cable to add sodium thiopental to this list."

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve's director, said recently: "US doctors have told us they do not use this drug (as an anaesthetic) any more.

"I would have thought that the British Government would do the right thing swiftly."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before