EU must clamp down on advertising of torture equipment at trade fairs - new report

‘The reality is that items intended to inflict horrific levels of human suffering are openly on display at trade fairs in Europe’ - Iverna McGowan
 
Spoof London arms fair ads drew attention to torture equipment offered for sale
 
The European Union must clamp down on the commercial advertisement of security equipment potentially used to inflict cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment on people, said Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation in a new report published today (9 May). 
 
The 23-page report - Why the EU should ban the commercial marketing and promotion of inhumane policing and prison equipment - details how legal loopholes have allowed potential tools of torture - such as spiked batons, thumbcuffs and spiked shields - to be advertised and sometimes even displayed at trade fairs within the EU, despite trading in these items being already banned under the EU’s Torture Trade Regulation. 
 
The report shows how banned items - thumbcuffs, spiked batons, spiked shields and weighted leg restraints - were all commercially promoted at the “Milipol” security exhibition in Paris last year, despite the import of these products into the EU and their export to non-EU countries being prohibited. Worryingly, a spiked shield and a set of weighted leg restraints were also physically displayed at Milipol, raising further questions over how these illegal items could have been transported into the EU.
 
Last October the European Parliament made a specific proposal to prohibit the commercial marketing and promotion of all items banned under the Torture Trade Regulation, both physically and online. This proposal was not accepted by the Council of the EU, and is currently being discussed in informal “trilogue” negotiations between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council.
 
Amnesty and the Omega Research Foundation are urging the Council of the EU to agree to the European Parliament’s amendment, and to robustly implement it to ensure that no person or company trading within EU jurisdiction can in any way profit from the trade in implements of human suffering.
 
Iverna McGowan, head of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, said:
 
“The reality is that items intended to inflict horrific levels of human suffering are openly on display at trade fairs in Europe and being advertised by their manufacturers. 
 
“This flagrantly undermines the spirit of the regulation which bans these very items from import and export in an effort to ensure no person or company profits from the sickening torture trade.
 
“The EU and its member states must get their shop in order and ban the advertisement of thumbcuffs, spiked batons and any other barbaric equipment which can only be used to inflict cruel and degrading punishment on other human beings.”
 
Dr Michael Crowley of the Omega Research Foundation said:
 
“Year upon year, we have uncovered evidence of companies advertising torture equipment at security exhibitions such as Milipol, or promoting such goods online. Yet each time we have presented our findings to France, Germany and other EU States calling on them to end such practices, they have refused.
 
“It is now time for EU governments to act in good faith to fulfil their international obligations to combat torture and ill-treatment, and to ensure Europe no longer remains a market place for inhumane policing and prison equipment.”
 

EU regulations being flouted

In 2006 the EU introduced a measure known as Council Regulation 1236/2005 which provided for binding trade controls on a range of equipment used in capital punishment, torture and other ill-treatment (“tools of torture”), but which has not usually been included by EU member states in their military, dual-use or strategic export control lists.
 
Between 2007-15, Amnesty and the Omega Research Foundation produced a series of reports which identified specific loopholes in the provisions of the EU regulation and also omissions in the EU’s two lists of prohibited and controlled items that allowed the trade in “tools of torture” to continue.
 
In July 2014, the European Commission responded by introducing an “Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 775/2014” to further expand the list of prohibited goods and the list of controlled goods covered by the 2006 Regulation. 
 

Spoof advert campaign for Docklands arms fair

Last September Amnesty produced a spoof advertising campaign that purported to offer for sale torture equipment at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) arms fair event (www.dsei.co.uk) in Docklands in east London (see: www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/london-arms-fair-amnesty-launches-spo…). The stunt was designed to draw attention to the fact that at past London arms fairs campaigners have discovered a variety of illegal torture equipment advertised for sale - including electro-shock stun guns and batons, leg-irons, and belly-, body- and gang-chains. A range of illegal cluster-munition weaponry has also been advertised at the DSEi fair, one of the world’s largest arms sales.
 

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Why the EU should band the commercial marketing of inhumane policing and prison equipment