Electric shock batons, neck shackles, leg irons and thumb screws are instruments of torture you would think have been left in the dustbin of history, however that has not been the case and they are still being used today in military barracks, torture chambers and police stations all over the world. Currently the only world region to have specific laws which regulate the trade in equipment which can be used for torture is the European Union (EU). However the laws are not completely full proof and there are some loopholes which allow companies to advertise devices that have been devised for torture to known human rights abusers outside the EU. Amnesty International is calling for the law to be tightened so the EU is not complicit in equipping countries and organisations which torture people.
Advertised in the UK
There are plenty of items such as spiked batons that are totally banned in the European Union because it is obvious what their intended use is, however companies that are based outside of the EU still have the ability to market torture equipment within the EU. In the UK there have been a number of international arms fairs where equipment that is illegal because its primary use is for torture is still being advertised. Despite the government promising to crack down on such nefarious practices, no company till date has been prosecuted for selling equipment used for torture at UK arms fairs. Companies from the EU also have the right to trade in such equipment so long as the merchandise does not physically enter the region. Oliver Sprague of Amnesty International says the organisation is keen to see the end of the UK playing any sort of role in this dirty business.
A step forward
At present there is a great opportunity to close the loopholes once and for all as the EU undertakes a review of the law that prohibits the trade of items used in either the death penalty or for torture. So far as many as 30,000 people have signed Amnesty International’s petition urging the EU to fix the law that enables companies and people to profit from torture. In October last year the law was amended by a huge majority of 630 for and 30 against and received support from all the main political groups. What is now needed is for individual EU members to do that same and ensure they also pass laws to which will mean that the EU is never complicit in the sale of torture items.