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23 Mar, 2010 06:30

European countries involved in business of torture

Despite laws prohibiting their trade, tools used for torture are being exported by some European countries to regimes around the world, with little regard for human rights, Amnesty International claims.

EU law expressly prohibits the export or import of goods that have no practical use other than for the purpose of capital punishment or torture, but the lack of enforcement means countries like Germany, the Czech Republic, Spain and Italy are still selling torture instruments abroad – to countries where there is documented proof of the use of such equipment for torture.

“Pepper sprays can be used by police officers in the situations of extreme violence, but they can also be misused, and they widely are in many places for torture and ill treatment,” says Mike Lewis from Amnesty International. “But there is also another category of equipment that we see being marketed by European firms, and in some cases imported into the European Union. Devices that have no other use but for torture and ill treatment – devices like electric shock belts.”

The organization is talking about devices like fixed wall restraints, metal thumb cuffs, spiked batons and sleeves and cuffs that can deliver electric shocks to about 50,000 volts.

Amnesty also says that in the last four years, the Czech Republic issued export permits for foot and hand shackles, electric shock tools and chemical sprays to countries where police and security forces are known to use them for torture. It named the counties such as Senegal, Cameroon, Pakistan, Moldova and Georgia.

Following Amnesty’s reports, the EU parliaments are looking into the allegations and MEPs have issued a strong public statement putting pressure on the EU Commission and member states to enforce the law properly.

“It needs to act on the laws that it already has,” Mike Lewis adds.

When the law against international trade in torture equipment was introduced in 2006, it was a progressive piece of legislation. It seems the time has come to turn words into deeds to ensure that deadly equipment manufactured inside the EU no longer falls into the wrong hands.

“At the moment only 7 out of 27 EU member states publicly report on the licenses that are granted for the sales of torture equipment, which is despicable,” says David Nichols, Executive Officer from Amnesty International's European Union Office. “All 27 member states need to actually provide that information publicly and the European Commission needs to get its act together and reform the piece of legislature itself.”