New report: Review of EU Anti-Torture Regulation and its implementation

Findings and recommendations from Omega's review of the EU Anti-Torture Regulation

Omega’s newest report, Review of EU Anti-Torture Regulation and its implementation, has just been published on our website (access it here: https://omegaresearchfoundation.org/publications/review-eu-anti-torture-regulation-and-its-implementation).

The Regulation

European Council Regulation No. 1236/2005, Concerning trade in goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (the Regulation), was agreed in July 2005 and came into force on 30 July 2006. Interested in this process? Read our previous reports, available here: https://omegaresearchfoundation.org/publications.

The EU Regulation is the world’s first multilateral instrument in this area. The Regulation is legally binding, and is directly applicable in all EU Member States. It filled a major gap in human-rights-based trade controls, and serves as an inspiration for other national, regional, and international processes.

The Regulation introduced unprecedented, binding export controls on a range of equipment that is considered to have a legitimate law enforcement purpose, but that can be readily misused for torture and other ill-treatment, such as types of restraints, certain chemical irritants, and projectile electric shock weapons (Annex III). It also regulates export of certain pharmaceutical chemicals to ensure they are not transferred for use in lethal injection executions (Annex IV). The Regulation also prohibits trade in a range of other, inherently abusive, equipment (Annex II), which is considered to have no practical use other than for capital punishment, torture and other ill-treatment. This list, Annex II, includes equipment used for executions, body-worn electric shock equipment, spiked batons and fixed restraints.

The Regulation has been revised and strengthened over time. The latest consolidated version, Regulation (EU) 2019/125, was published in January 2019 and came into force on 20 February 2019. Under the Regulation, the European Commission is required to undertake a comprehensive review of the Regulation every five years. The first such review has recently been completed by the Commission; the resulting report is with the European Parliament and European Council for their consideration and action. At Omega, we engaged extensively with this review process, and this new report is part of that engagement.

The Report

The new report, Review of EU Anti-Torture Regulation and its implementation, comprises an independent evaluation of the Regulation and its implementation by Member States, together with an analysis of company activities of concern. From this, Omega has found that aspects of the Regulation remain only partially, or inefficiently, implemented. We’ve also found that certain goods and activities of concern as not adequately covered by the Regulation.

Among other issues highlighted, the report discusses:

  • The promotion, by companies in at least 10 EU Member States, of a range of goods not currently prohibited under the Regulation, but which are inappropriate for use by law enforcement officials, and which could facilitate torture or other ill-treatment. These include some direct-contact electric shock devices, for instance.
  • The failure, by the majority of EU Member States, to fully adhere to their obligations to provide public annual activity report of their implementation of the Regulation, particularly relating to export licence authorisations.
  • The authorisation, by some EU Member States, of the export of equipment controlled under the Regulation (Annex III) to destinations where this type of equipment had recently been used in reported instances of torture and other ill-treatment.
  • At arms and security trade fairs held in EU Member States, the promotion, by non-EU-based companies, of prohibited equipment that has no practical purpose other than for torture or other ill-treatment (Annex II).

We’ve developed a range of policy recommendations to strengthen the Regulation and address existing limitations in the control regime. These are listed in the report in full, and include:

  • The expansion of the list of prohibited goods considered to have no practical use other than for capital punishment, torture and other ill-treatment (Annex II), as well as the expansion of the list of controlled goods considered to have legitimate law enforcement purposes but that can be readily misused for torture and other ill-treatment (Annex III).
  • The amendment of the Regulation to clarify the obligations of EU companies organising arms and security trade fairs, exhibitions, and pavilions, within the EU or in third countries, to prevent the display and promotion of Annex II goods.
  • The adoption of measures and Commission guidance to facilitate the production and public dissemination, by all Member States, of annual activity reports that adhere to the Commission’s reporting template.

Access the full report here: https://omegaresearchfoundation.org/publications/review-eu-anti-torture-.... If you have questions about any of the content of the report, and would like to discuss, send us an email at info@omegaresearchfoundation.org.