EU regulation does not prevent trade in tools of torture

EU regulation does not prevent trade in tools of torture

“When I was in Guantánamo Bay, one of the things I pointed out to my lawyer was how it was ironic that these shackles were made in England, just like me and him. It was very bizarre. Those shackles would often cut into my arms and legs and make me bleed. It was those very same shackles I saw being used by American soldiers in Baghram airbase to hang a prisoner from the ceiling. It said ‘Made in England’ on there too.”

Moazzam Begg, a former Guantánamo detainee

(Brussels, 27 February) The EU’s new regulation to prevent the trade in equipment used for torture and executions is too weak says Amnesty International in a new report, European Union: Stopping the Trade in the Tools of Torture (click here to access the report).

Amnesty International regrets that the current legislation, since July 2006, does not include in the list of banned tools instruments such as “steel sting sticks” and “spike batons” which have no practical use other than for torture purposes. The report notes how the latter, for example, are used for repressive purposes in Tibet.

The organization also regrets that the trade of objects such as electric batons or regular handcuffs – which are a legitimate tool of restraint but can become a torture tool if they are improperly handled – are not regulated even when the countries concerned have a history of systematic misuse. Amnesty International is worried that as a result, companies in EU Member States are able to export these items freely within and outside the EU without the need to apply for an export licence. Examples cited include the use of electric batons against Roma minorities in Slovakia and Bulgaria.

“In practice the lack of regulation means that “European handcuffs” can continue to be supplied to security forces with a history of abuse, even those subject to EU embargoes such as Zimbabwe or Myanmar” said Dick Oosting, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office.
Another example is the ongoing trade to Guantánamo, despite the various claims of ill-treatment and torture at the site where hundreds of people are unlawfully detained.

“At a time where the EU’s traditional stance against torture has been undermined by the complicity of member states in extraordinary renditions that led to torture, the EU can ill afford to be seen to tolerate the trade of potentially dangerous equipment to dubious destinations” said Oosting.

Amnesty International welcomes the EU’s adoption of rules to regulate this trade but also regrets that so far, only 11 of the 27 member states have drafted national laws or implemented penalties in accordance with the regulation. It calls on the EU to strengthen the regulation by reviewing the flaws, and to ensure full implementation by all member states.

For further comment/background and interviews:

     Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels):
     Tel: 32-2-5021499
     Fax: 32-2-5025686
     Email: [email protected]