MEPs want clampdown on torture tools

Human rights - 25-06-2010 - 12:17
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  • Loopholes in existing rules
  • Some Member States may be exporting torture tools
MEPs want stricter controls over torture equipment © BELGA

MEPs want stricter controls over torture equipment © BELGA

June 26 is the United Nations International Day Against Torture, marking the coming into force of the Convention against Torture in 1987. In a resolution adopted last week MEPs urged EU governments to end the sale of implements of torture to countries outside Europe. They also want the list of banned items to be updated.

It was back in 2006 that EU rules restricting the trade of torture tools was introduced. However, the legislation remains unimplemented or only partly implemented in several European countries.
"We are not living up to expectations"
Speaking in the debate, the Chair of Parliament's Human Rights Sub-Committee Heidi Hautala said, "the example of torture tools shows that we are far from being perfect. We are not living up to expectations and our own commitments."
"The prevention and the eradication of all forms of torture and ill-treatment within the EU and worldwide is one of the main objectives of the EU human rights policy," she added.

Torture and the EU

  • The EU Guidelines on Torture (2001)
  • Article 4 of Fundamental Rights Charter of the EU bans torture and ill-treatment
  • Article 3 of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
  • As Members of the Council of Europe, EU Member States have all ratified the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture
In order to fight against the trade in goods that could be used for torture, the resolution urges EU countries to send reports about "the number of (licence) applications received, the items involved and countries of destination for each application, as well as the decisions made on each of these applications, and reports of 'null activity" if applicable."
It also calls for proper penalties if rules are broken.
Legal loopholes in existing rules
The resolution also draws attention to several legal loopholes in the regulation as the list of prohibited instruments doesn't include spiked batons (“sting sticks”), thumb-cuffs, thumbscrews, wall restraints or electric shock devices.
"Sometimes it seems that the human imagination on how to inflict hardship on others is unlimited. So it is essential to keep pace with technological developments in this sad matter," Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gabriele Albertini said.
During the debate, the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said "any shortcomings in the implementation of the Regulation must - and will - be addressed." She said Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation will present their findings to a meeting with member states later this month.
REF.: 20100611STO75911