Export Control Organisation
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The UK legal basis for controls on torture goods is Regulation (EC) No. 2019/125 (the Torture Regulation).
This guide explains which goods are prohibited from export and which are controlled for export under the regulation.
Goods controlled by torture legislation include drugs used in executions by lethal injection. The export of the drug propofol to the United States is also controlled.
Regulation (EU) 2019/125 prohibits and regulates trade in equipment and products that could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
This Regulation came into force in February 2019 and codified the previous Regulation (EC) No 1236/2005 and its amendments.
Associated secondary legislation
The powers concerning licensing, enforcement and penalties are all covered in the Export Control Order 2008 (as amended).
You should get your own legal advice where necessary and to make sure that you are referring to the latest version of the legislation.
How the regulations affect exporters
Regulating trade in certain kinds of equipment
The regulation divides the items into three categories:
- goods which have no practical use other than for the purposes of capital punishment, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
- goods that have legitimate law enforcement applications but could be used for the purpose of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
- goods that could be used for the purpose of capital punishment
The export is prohibited for the first category of goods, except in a few specific circumstances.
The other two categories cover items which may be authorised, but you will need an export licence.
Goods that are prohibited
Annex II of the Regulation lists goods which have no practical use other than for the purposes of capital punishment, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Any export or import of goods listed in Annex II of the Regulation is prohibited. The supply of technical assistance in connection with these goods is also prohibited. These goods include:
- gallows and guillotines
- electric chairs for the purpose of execution of human beings
- airtight vaults
- automatic drug injection systems
- electric shock devices, thumb-cuffs, finger-cuffs, thumbscrews and finger-screws
- bar fetters, leg restraints and gang chains
- cuffs for restraining human beings
- restraint chairs
- shackle boards and shackle beds
- cage beds
- net beds
- batons or truncheons with metal spikes
- whips with multiple lashes or fitted with barbs, hooks or spikes
An exemption from this export prohibition can only be made if the goods are to be displayed in a public exhibition in a museum in view of their historic significance. If this exemption applies, you will need an export authorisation, a licence, from the Department for International Trade (DIT).
Goods that require an export authorisation
You will need a licence from DIT for the goods listed in Annex III and IV of the Regulation. The supply of brokering services and the supply of technical assistance in respect of the goods listed in Annex III or in Annex IV to this Regulation is also subject to prior authorisation.
Annex III of the Regulation lists goods that could be used for the purpose of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, but also have legitimate applications, for example:
- shackles and gang-chains, certain individual cuffs or rings
- spit hoods
- portable electric shock devices
- devices for the purpose of riot control or self-protection by the administration or dissemination of an incapacitating chemical
- certain pepper sprays
For the purpose of this Regulation only, you dont need an export licence for goods listed in Annex III when:
the goods only pass through the customs territory of the EU, namely those which are not assigned a customs approved treatment or use other than the external transit procedure under Article 226 of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013, including storage of non-Union goods in a free zone
- the export is to territories of member states which are both listed in Annex VI to the Regulation, and are not part of the customs territory of the EU, provided that the goods will be used by an authority in charge of law enforcement in both the country or territory of destination and the metropolitan part of the member state to which that territory belongs
- the export is to third countries, provided that the goods will be used by the military or civil personnel of a member state of the EU, if they are taking part in an EU or UN peace-keeping or crisis management operation in the third country concerned, or in an operation based on agreements between member states and the third countries in the field of defence
Annex IV of the Regulation lists goods that could be used for the purpose of capital punishment, but also have legitimate medical applications.
For the purpose of this Regulation only, an export authorisation for goods listed in Annex IV is not required where the goods only pass through the customs territory of the EU, namely those which are not assigned a customs approved treatment or use other than the external transit procedure under Article 226 of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013, including storage of non-Union goods in a free zone.
You can apply for an export licence using our online licensing system.
Export controls in relation to other regulatory controls for drugs
As an exporter you should be aware that other regulatory controls applying to the supply or export of these drugs are included under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (as administered by the Home Office).
It is an exporters responsibility to ensure that all regulatory requirements are complied with and to apply for licences from all individual relevant regulatory authorities as necessary.
Additional UK controls
The UK controls the export of the drugs pancuronium bromide and propofol to the United States.
Pancuronium bromide and propofol are included on the list of human and veterinary medicinal products that are prohibited for export to the USA when they are in a form suitable for injection, or for preparation of an injection.
Any person seeking to export these drugs from the UK to the US requires an export licence issued by DIT. We will refuse a licence if the stated end use is execution or if we consider that there is an unacceptable risk that the drug will be diverted for use in execution. The control covers both direct and indirect export of products from the UK to the US. The indirect control applies when the initial destination is not the US but the exporter knows that the goods will be re-exported and that the ultimate destination is the US.
Apply for an export licence
Applying for an export licence for drugs which could be used for execution purposes
- check whether the goods you propose to export are specified in Annex IV of Regulation (EU) 2019/125
- if the items are specified you will need to apply for an appropriate licence from the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU), which is part of DIT
- check if your export is subject to other licensing requirements administered by either the Home Office, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) or the Veterinary Medicines