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UN General Assembly set to vote on curbing trade in torture equipment

China is major manufacturer of equipment like spiked batons, spiked electric-shock riot forks, electric-shock vests and heavy leg-irons

In past month alone, Hong Kong and Sudan have used tear gas against peaceful protesters

This secretive trade has gone unregulated for far too long – Ara Marcen Naval

Spiked batons, stun belts and leg irons are among the gruesome tools of torture which should be banned outright, Amnesty International has said, ahead of a crucial vote on a torture trade resolution at the UN General Assembly tomorrow (Friday 28 June).

Adopting the resolution would be a first step towards creating international laws to ban the trade in equipment which has no other purpose than torture. It would also be a chance to tighten regulations on equipment like batons and tear gas, which are regularly misused to crush peaceful protests.

As well as calling for inherently abusive equipment to be banned, Amnesty is calling for countries to strictly regulate the export of policing equipment to stop transfers to places where it risks being used for torture, ill-treatment or other abuses.

Ara Marcen Naval, Amnesty Internationals Arms Control and Human Rights Deputy Director, said:

“Every year governments attend and host international trade fairs where they can browse stalls selling horrifying torture devices – this secretive trade has gone unregulated for far too long.

“Torturers around the world have benefited from loose regulations which allow them to access all the latest technologies in inflicting pain and fear.

“Its time for states to send a clear message that they are committed to eradicating torture for good. We are calling on governments to adopt this resolution, and then work towards adopting regulations that will curb this business and protect people all over the world from the scourge of torture and ill-treatment.”

China is major manufacturer

Amnesty has documented how China is a major force in this industry, and found that the number of Chinese companies manufacturing such equipment has more than quadrupled in the last decade. However, the use of the “tools of torture” has been documented in all regions of the world, and many countries which ban their use still allow them to be promoted and sold on their soil. In 2017, Amnesty researchers discovered illegal torture equipment including spiked batons, spiked electric-shock riot forks, electric-shock vests and heavy leg-irons for sale by Chinese companies at Milipol, a military and police trade fair in Paris.

Domestic export bans on torture and execution equipment in many countries have restricted the torture trade in recent years. In 2006, the EU introduced a regulation concerning the “trade in goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. However, no international regulation exists – which means that outside of the EU, torture tools are being manufactured, promoted, exported and imported with little global scrutiny.

In order to be fully effective, any legislation aiming to tackle this trade should distinguish between two types of equipment. It should ban inherently abusive equipment (such as spiked batons, neck cuffs, electric-shock belts), while regulating equipment which may have a legitimate purpose but which is commonly abused for torture or other ill-treatment (such as tear gas and pepper spray).

Amnesty is calling on all countries to assess the human rights risks before granting authorisations of these types of equipment, in line with other trade control regimes of dangerous goods such as conventional arms.
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