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Amnesty International Says EU States Exporting Torture Instruments

Evidence of torture in Azerbaijani prisons obtained by RFE/RL
(RFE/RL) -- The London-based human rights body Amnesty International has claimed that some European Union states are selling torture equipment to foreign countries that are known to mistreat prisoners.

The report says companies in the Czech Republic and Germany are among the export offenders. Amnesty says their products are being sold to at least nine countries in which Amnesty has documented the use of such instruments for torture.

It says the exports have continued despite the passage of a 2006 EU law banning the international trade in policing and security equipment designed for torture or ill-treatment.

Amnesty researcher Mike Lewis told RFE/RL that implementation of the law is a big problem.
The Czech Republic issued export permits for foot or hand shackles, electric shock tools, and chemical sprays

"Although the legislation exists, and was a leader in its field when it was introduced, European member states have not uniformly followed up on their obligations under the regulations," Lewis said.

"For instance, one of the things the law is meant to do is to make the trade more transparent, yet only seven of the 27 member states have publicly reported on exports of this kind of equipment, and they are legally required to do that."

The items available for export include fixed wall restraints, metal thumb "cuffs," spiked batons, and "sleeves" and "cuffs" that can deliver electric shocks of up to 50,000 volts.

Amnesty, which compiled the report jointly with the Omega Research Foundation, is calling on the European Commission to close loopholes in the 2006 legislation, and for member states to better enforce the law.

Torturers' Tool Kit

Omega Foundation researcher Michael Crowley says it's time for the EU to turn words into deeds. Crowley said the EU "must impose truly effective controls on the European trade in security and policing equipment, and ensure that such goods do not become part of the torturers' tool kit."

Amnesty says that between 2006 and 2009, the Czech Republic issued export permits for foot or hand shackles, electric shock tools, and chemical sprays to six countries where police and security forces had previously used such equipment for torture.

Lewis named the countries as Georgia, Moldova, Mongolia, Pakistan, Senegal, and Cameroon.

Germany is said to have issued export permits for foot-chains and chemical sprays to China, India, and the United Arab Emirates.

"In all these places we have found equipment of this type being used persistently for torture and other ill-treatment, so it's very difficult to see how that risk is being adequately assessed by member states," Lewis said.

The report also says that equipment suppliers in Spain and Italy promoted for sale electrical "cuffs" and "sleeves" with a 50,000 volt shock "for use on prisoners."

It notes that companies in Finland, Italy, and Belgium have stated openly that they export equipment covered by the 2006 regulations.