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Texas inmates challenge use of new execution drugs

Three Texas death row inmates on Tuesday filed a lawsuit alleging that the state plans to use new types of drugs in their execution. The complaint claims that Texas has obtained [Reuters report] propofol, midzolam and hydromorphone from manufacturers by pretending to be a hospital. Thus, the drugs would not have been delivered if manufacturers knew that they would be used for executions. The three plaintiffs alleged that the drugs would create pain and that Texas prison officials are attempting to experiment on them. The complaint seeks to halt on all executions until the state can analyze the drugs. The state faced a shortage of sodium thiopental that had been used for lethal injections since 1976 when its manufacturer, Hospira, Inc., ceased production. Texas switched to Pentobarbital in 2012 but its Denmark manufacturer, Lundbeck LLC, has opposed to the use of its drug in executions, causing another supply shortage.

Application of the death penalty [JURIST news archive] has remained a controversial issue around the globe, and the UN in particular has fought to abolish it for years. In August the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] criticized [JURIST report] Vietnam for resuming the death penalty. In July 2011 the country decided to stop using firing squads in favor of lethal injections, but was unable to procure the necessary drugs largely due to EU export restrictions. In May it amended the law to allow locally-produced chemicals to be used. In July Pakistan's new government lifted [JURIST report] the country's moratorium on executions. The decision was criticized by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. Also in July the US Supreme Court agreed to consider jury instructions in a death penalty case [JURIST report] in its next term. In March the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Christof Heyns urged [JURIST report] the Indonesian government to restrict the use of capital punishment to comply with international human rights obligations. Also in March UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned [JURIST report] the executions of seven people in Saudi Arabia as a violation of international safeguards on the use of the death penalty. The men were executed by firing squad after convictions for theft, looting and armed robbery.

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