Important advance in tackling the trade in “tools of torture” in the Council of Europe

Important advance in tackling the trade in “tools of torture” in the Council of Europe

On 26th January 2018 Omega and Amnesty International secured an important victory when the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) unanimously adopted a ground breaking Resolution calling on all Council of Europe (CoE) Member states and relevant CoE bodies to take action to address the trade in security equipment that could readily be used for torture and ill-treatment (“tools of torture”).

This follows Omega’s recently published report documenting the manufacture, trade and use of “tools of torture” within the CoE and our input into the investigation by the PACE Legal Affairs and Human Rights (LAHR) Committee into the on-going trade of “tools of torture” within the CoE. Our research showed that companies in the region have promoted electric shock batons; electric shock belts and shock cuffs; weighted leg restraints; handcuffs bolted to walls; thumbcuffs and spiked batons. Our research was reflected in the LAHR Committee findings and recommendations, which formed the basis for the PACE Resolution.

The PACE Resolution urges all 47 CoE Member states to introduce legislation prohibiting trade in inherently abusive equipment - specifically including execution technologies and certain components; inhumane restraints; certain whips; and portable devices unsuitable for riot control or self-protection. Member states are also urged to regulate the trade in potentially legitimate security equipment that could however be misused; and to deny authorisation for trade in such goods “where there are reasonable grounds for believing that they might be used for capital punishment or torture [or ill-treatment] in a third country”.

The PACE Resolution also calls on the Committee of Ministers (the CoE’s formal decision-making body made up of foreign ministers of all CoE Member states) to:

  • Provide technical support for CoE Member states introducing national legislation addressing the trade in “tools of torture”;
  • Provide “technical guidance on how to establish and implement an effective regulatory regime”. This would apply the EU approach set out in (EC Regulation 1236/2005 – the Torture Trade Regulation) to address the trade in “tools of torture” across the whole CoE.

Omega will continue to work closely with Amnesty International to ensure that the PACE recommendations are fully endorsed by the Committee of Ministers and translated into concrete action by all CoE Member States.