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European Parliament set to vote on new regulation to stop trade in torture equipment

Banned torture equipment has been openly offered for sale at trade fairs in Europe in recent years © Robin Ballantyne / Omega Research Foundation
‘This vote is an opportunity for the EU to send the message that it will not tolerate torture’ - Ara Marcen Naval
The European Parliament should vote in favour of measures strengthening the European Union’s landmark regulation combating the trade in equipment that can be used to torture, ill-treat or execute people, said Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation today.
Final amendments to the new torture trade regulation - known formally as Regulation (EC) 1236/2005, as accepted by the EU Council - will be debated and voted on by the European Parliament tomorrow.
Amnesty and Omega have campaigned for the closure of loopholes in the current regulation, including ones that allow EU-based companies and companies trading in the EU to openly promote equipment at EU arms fairs, exhibitions and online, when the import and export of that equipment is banned by the EU. For example, catalogues promoting banned equipment such as thumbcuffs, spiked batons and weighted leg restraints were distributed at the “Milipol” exhibition in Paris last November, and a set of weighted leg irons and a spiked shield were physically on display at the event. 
Meanwhile, as of 28 September, the website of German company PKI Electronic Intelligence GmbH was advertising banned 60,000-volt electric stun hand-cuffs with the chilling tagline “You never saw an escaping person stop so quickly!”
Positive amendments to the draft regulation that Amnesty and Omega support, include:
*An explicit ban on the transit through the EU of equipment specifically designed for torture, ill-treatment or execution
*A ban on brokering activities by EU-based companies when prohibited goods do not touch EU soil
*A ban on providing training and technical assistance in the use of prohibited equipment
*An ‘urgency procedure’ which will enable the EU to more quickly put in place controls on new types of equipment judged to be inherently abusive
Amnesty International’s security trade expert Ara Marcen Naval said: 
“For too long companies have been able to profit from human suffering. This vote is an opportunity for the EU to send the message that it will not tolerate torture.”
Omega’s security trade expert Dr Michael Crowley said:
“The Commission, Parliament and member states must now ensure that prohibited goods designed to inflict pain and suffering, or goods which are likely to do so, will no longer be casually displayed at EU trade fairs or promoted online by EU companies.”

Training in torture equipment use should be banned

Amnesty and Omega are also calling for further measures to be put in place to implement the objectives of the regulation. This includes banning EU companies from providing training to police and security forces throughout the world in techniques that could be defined as torture or other ill-treatment. For example, videos of training sessions available on the website of one Czech company show trainees being taught how to apply pressure to the throat of a prisoner in a “choke-hold” restraint technique. Such training is not currently prohibited, even though the technique appears to contravene the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture’s own recommendations.

Positive example

Amnesty and Omega are also calling for EU institutions and member states to take action to stop the global torture trade. The international trade in security and law enforcement equipment is, in most countries, much less stringently controlled than the trade in conventional military weapons and munitions.


The landmark Council Regulation (EC) 1236/2005 is the world’s only legally-binding regional mechanism for combating the trade in “law enforcement” devices that have no practical use other than to torture, ill-treat or execute people, and controlling the trade in devices which may have a legitimate use but which could be readily misused for such purposes. The European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg will debate and vote on a package of amendments agreed between Parliament and Council negotiators earlier this year in informal “trilogue” discussions. This package has already been voted through the Parliament’s International Trade Committee. 
A stand displaying examples of material advertising torture equipment - found at trade fairs in the EU - will be in the Parliament in Strasbourg on 4 October, located outside the entrance to the canteen. Experts from Amnesty and Omega will be present and available for interview.

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