GENEVA (19 May 2016) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Thursday warmly welcomed the initiatives announced by pharmaceutical company Pfizer to ensure that the drugs it produces will not be used by States to carry out executions by lethal injection.
“Businesses, across many industries, can help prevent human rights violations from occurring,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “It is heartening to see companies playing an active role in furthering the trend towards ending use of the death penalty.”
The company announced that it would restrict the sale of seven products that have been part of lethal injection protocols in some States. Resale will be restricted and Government entities will be required to certify that the products they purchase will not be used for any penal purposes. Pfizer has said it will monitor the distribution consistently.
High Commissioner Zeid called on all businesses to act in accordance with their human rights responsibilities as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, to “avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities, and address such impacts when they occur” as well as to “seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services”.*
He noted that other companies, beyond the pharmaceutical industry, may be involved in activities relating to the administration of the death penalty, and called on such businesses to carry out human rights due diligence across their operations to ensure that they are not in any way contributing to the use of capital punishment.
Zeid also urged States not to resort to questionable sources for the drugs required to administer lethal injections. He stressed that the UN opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances.