EU bans trade in torture instruments

30.06.05 @ 17:41

  1. By Elitsa Vucheva

BRUSSELS - The European Commission on Thursday (30 June) banned trade in instruments of torture.

  • The ban is mainly symbolic (Photo: EUobserver.com)

The ban concerns "goods that have no use other than for capital punishment or torture", says a commission statement.

But strict controls will also be imposed on other goods, "which could be used to inflict torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

Banned goods include electric shock belts, electric chairs and guillotines. Leg irons and electric shock weapons are part of those items to be put under strict controls.

"Our assumption is that trade in this area, if it exists at all, is extremely minimal but the regulation is intended to bring our rules in line with our political principles", a commission spokesperson said, referring to the bloc's opposition to the use of torture and the death penalty.

But although the measures adopted are mainly symbolic, as trade of torture equipment hardly exists, they still constitute "a complete ban", she underlined.

Positive, but insufficient signal

Human rights organisation Amnesty International reacted to the ban saying it was a positive signal, but it is not enough.

According to Pascal Fenaux, the spokesperson for Amnesty's Belgian branch, the main problem is to define the word "torture".

"Unfortunately, human beings' imagination is such that anything could be cited as torture, the definition is very large", he told the EUobserver.

Menaces, humiliation, and moral torture in general are as grave as physical torture, Mr Fenaux said.

"I am afraid that this [commission decision] will not be sufficient to stop torture, and in that aspect I think the commission spokeswoman's lucidity was remarkable ", he concluded, referring to her statement that the ban was mainly symbolic.