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Last Updated:[18-03-2010 02:44:09 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

EU Embarrassed by Report on Exports of Torture Equipment

tradenews The EU which insists on stringent enforcement of human rights in every trade deal has found itself cornered by the recent jointly released report by Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation. The report titled ‘From Words to Deeds’ has arrayed clear evidence against several European firms engaged in banned torture equipment sales.

It has been reported that a large number of torture instruments including fixed wall restraints, metal ‘thumb cuffs’, and electroshock ‘sleeves’ and ‘cuffs’ which could deliver 50,000V shocks were widely traded with the tacit or explicit backing from some governments of the EU. Furthermore, these commercial exchanges have violated the 2006 Act of a global ban on the international trade of policing and security equipment designed for torture and ill-treatment.

According to the Amnesty International’s press release, the organization along with its research partner would be informing the EU administration to insulate legislative loopholes highlighted in the report, and the EU member states to adequately implement and enforce the regulation. Amnesty International’s UK arms program director Oliver Sprague lambasted the EU for condoning the sales of inhumane torture equipment, and also for using double standards in trade deals.

Interestingly, the accomplices in this illegal trade have flouted with impunity the Regulation that has been introduced after a decade of campaigning by human rights organizations. Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International's EU office blamed the EU for the failure of proper implementation or enforcement of the four year old legislation.

As per the report, between 2006 and 2009, the Czech Republic issued export licenses covering shackles, electric shock weapons and chemical sprays to six countries where police and security forces had a history of using such equipment for torture and other ill-treatment. Likewise, Germany issued similar licenses to three such countries for exports of foot-chains and chemical sprays.

Besides, law enforcement equipment suppliers in Italy and Spain are found to have encouraged the sale 50,000V electric shock ‘cuffs’ or ‘sleeves’ for use on prisoners by exploiting a legal loophole. In 2005 one of the EU member states, Hungary declared its intention to introduce electric ‘stun belts’ into its own prisons and police stations, despite a trade ban on such belts which inherently constituted torture or ill-treatment.

Surprisingly, five EU member states have expressed that they were unaware of any producers (Belgium, Cyprus, Italy, Finland and Malta) or exporters (Belgium, Cyprus, Italy) of equipment covered under the Regulation. However, it is interesting to note that companies from three of these five countries (Finland, Italy and Belgium) have stated openly in media interviews or on their websites that they supplied items which were covered by the Regulation, often manufactured in third countries.

By Jose Roy

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