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U.S. to license export of ‘human execution’ equipment

The U.S. Commerce Department has added “equipment designed for the execution of humans” to its Commerce Control List, which means that any company seeking to export electric chairs, lethal chemical injection tables or other execution equipment to any foreign country must first obtain a U.S. export license.

The Commerce Control List is intended to distinguish those products and systems that are legitimately used to control crime -- and thus should be exportable to foreign countries with the proper export license -- from those products and systems which have no legitimate crime-control purpose, and should not be eligible for export for any reason.

The Department has just created a new Export Control Classification Number (ECCN), 0A981, Equipment for the Execution of Human Beings. The new rule became effective July 15, 2010, “because equipment designed for the execution of human beings has a clear nexus to crime control and an obvious potential use in repressing human rights,” explained the Department last August.

For years, the Commerce Control List has cited “implements of torture” – such as thumbscrews, thumbcuffs, fingercuffs and spiked batons – as devices that are ineligible for export under any circumstances. During a recent review of the Commerce Control List, the Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) considered banning the export of similar devices, such as stun cuffs, shock sleeves and shock belts, but ultimately decided that such products, indeed, have legitimate crime-control purposes.

“BIS has reassessed its earlier thinking and concluded that stun cuffs, shock sleeves and shock belts are, in some situations, necessary to protect law enforcement officers and the public from violent persons,” said a final rule published by BIS in the Federal Register on July 15.

Among the comments received from the public during the recent review was one that praised the addition of human execution equipment to the control list, but recommended that “parts and accessories” for such execution equipment also be included on the list, “because execution technologies have a defined set of parts and accessories and because of their obvious potential in repressing human rights,” explained the Department’s notice. Another commenter said that including parts and accessories would strengthen the control list by making it more difficult to repair U.S.-origin human execution equipment outside the U.S. The Bureau said it would consider making this change in the future.

BIS also indicated that it might add “biometric measuring devices, integrated data systems, simulators and communications equipment” to a future expansion of the Commerce Control List, though it did not specify when such a revision might be forthcoming. It also said it was thinking about the degree to which “software and technology” related to products already included on the control list should also be included on the list.


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