News: Amnesty and Omega uncover 'brutal' illegal torture equipment at Paris arms fair

Amnesty and Omega work on monitoring the implementation of the EU Torture Trade Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/2134 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 November 2016 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1236/2005 concerning trade in certain goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment). The Torture Trade Regulation now prohibits the promotion of goods deemed to have no practical use other than for capital punishment, torture or other ill-treatment, in trade fairs or exhibitions in the EU, as well as promotion on the web.

Milipol 2017 – the French internal security trade fair – was one of the first major EU arms fair since the updated Regulation came into force. Amnesty and Omega were interested to see what measures the French were taking to ensure companies were complying – especially since torture equipment and other prohibited items have been found at Milipol before.

Amnesty France – with background research and support from Omega – discovered prohibited goods physically displayed on the stall of company called Origin Dynamic and several other (Chinese) companies were distributing brochures which promoted prohibited equipment – breaching provisions in  the updated EU Torture Trade Regulation. This highlights the ineffective implementation of both existing import controls on prohibited items, as well as checks on promotional activity operated by both French Customs and the event organisers. 

Following Amnesty France alerting French Customs, the organisers and EU Trade Commissioner Malmstrom, the stand displaying the prohibited items was closed down and the other companies were forced to remove the offending information from their brochures or remove the brochures entirely. However, ‘confusion’ over legal jurisdiction meant that French Customs authorities failed to seize the prohibited items, which were, presumably, ‘re-exported’ by the Chinese company. At the time of writing we underdstand that Origin Dynamic have been prohibited from exhibiting at Milipol exhibitions worldwide and organisers are planning to file a criminal complaint against the firm and bring a civil action.

Amnesty France got excellent media coverage of the events and Amnesty and Omega are in ongoing discussions with the French authorities on the level of scrutiny of companies attending trade fairs and how France will effectively implement import/export controls and prevent torture equipment (as well as other prohibited arms) being promoted at future French trade fairs, such as Eurosatory or the Paris Airshow. Watch this space.

See for the original press release.