MEPs strengthen EU export ban on “torture goods”
Revised EU rules to prevent trade in goods and services that may contribute to torture or execution were approved by MEPs on Tuesday. In negotiations with member states on previous drafts, the European Parliament inserted a ban on the marketing and transit of equipment used for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of people in third countries.
"Banning the death penalty and torture are key goals of European trade and foreign policy and it is essential that EU companies do not contribute to these practices. We made the new legislation stronger and more flexible so that the EU can respond quickly to any changes and to the development of new technologies", said rapporteur Marietje Schaake (ALDE, NL) before the vote.
The agreed text was approved by 612 votes to 11 with 54 abstentions.
In negotiations with member states on updating the 2005 “Anti-torture Regulation”, the European Parliament inserted the following provisions:
- marketing and promotion ban. It will be illegal to sell and buy online and offline advertising services for banned goods which have no other practical use than execution or torture (e.g. electric chairs, automatic drug injection systems or spiked thumbscrews). The ban will also apply to exhibitions and trade fairs within the EU, where legal loopholes have so far allowed certain products (e.g. spiked batons, thumb cuffs and spiked shields), to be advertised and displayed, despite the export ban,
- no EU transit. The transit of prohibited goods via EU territory will be banned. Transporters will also be required to stop the transit of controlled goods - products that have been designed for other purposes, but could be used for torture (e.g. weapons designed for riot control, or certain anaesthetics used in lethal injections) - if they know that the shipment will end up in the wrong hands. Brokering services and technical assistance for banned goods will also be prohibited,
- swift action on new products. MEPs expanded the scope of the procedure which enables the EU Commission to quickly add new items to the lists of those that are banned or controlled,
- review clause. The Commission must review the implementation of the regulation by August 2020. This will include assessing whether there is a need to include the activities of EU nationals abroad, and
- an anti-torture coordination group, including Parliament’s experts, will be set up to monitor the application of the rules.
After the Council formally approves it, the new regulation will enter into force on the third day after its publication in the EU Official Journal. The Commission is to report by August 2020 on the implementation of the ban.
A key EU tool for fighting torture and the death penalty is the 2005 Regulation imposing restrictions on trade. This bans the export of goods which have no other practical use than execution or torture and controls trade in products that have been designed for other purposes, but could be used for torture or execution. Despite achieving some results, the Regulation has been criticised for loopholes that allowed trade or brokering and advertising of such goods to continue. Responding to a 2010 Parliament resolution, the Commission adopted a legislative proposal to amend the Regulation in 2014. Parliament’s International Trade Committee proposed several amendments to further restrict the trade. The final compromise, adopted in three-way talks with the EU Commission and ministers, reflects most of the committee’s proposals, and needs now to be confirmed by Parliament as a whole.
Procedure: Co-decision (Ordinary Legislative Procedure), 1st reading agreement