NEWS: UN General Assembly Votes to Explore the Creation of International Standards to Regulate the Trade in ‘Tools of Torture’

Investigating the contemporary global trade in ‘tools of torture’ and making the case for its stringent regulation is a core area of Omega’s work. We advocate for the prohibition of the trade in inherently abusive law enforcement equipment such as spiked batons, weighted leg cuffs, direct contact electric shock weapons and body worn electric shock devices, and regulation of the trade in other law enforcement equipment that is misused to commit torture and ill-treatment such as tear gas, batons, projectile electric shock weapons and leg cuffs.

At the international level we have been pushing for global action to tackle this trade – producing a series of briefings with Amnesty International – Ending the Trade in Tools of Torture: Five Key Principles; Tackling the Trade in Tools of Torture and Execution Technologies; and Combating Torture: The Need for Comprehensive Regulation of Law Enforcement Equipment which make the case for, and highlight the nature of, effective trade controls.

Since its launch in 2017 we have been working with the global Alliance for Torture Free Trade.  – an initiative led by Argentina, the European Union and Mongolia, currently comprising over 60 States,  which aims to end the trade in goods used for capital punishment, torture and other ill-treatment. Recently over 50 States, many involved in the Alliance, co-sponsored a UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution calling for the consideration of common international standards on this trade. Resolution A/73/L.94 Towards torture-free trade: examining the feasibility, scope and parameters for possible common international standards was adopted by UNGA on the 28th June 2019 - with 81 States voting in favour to 20 against, with 44 abstentions.

The Resolution calls on the UN Secretary General to gather Member States’ views on the feasibility and scope of options to establish these common standards and to report to the UNGA in September 2019. The Resolution also request that the Secretary General establish a group of governmental experts, to examine the feasibility, scope of the goods to be included and draft parameters for a range of options to establish common international standards, and submit a report to the UNGA in September 2020.

The adoption of the UNGA Resolution and the establishment of a formal UN Process is a major step forward in the global fight against torture. As the Romania representative at the UNGA stated “turning a blind eye to the torture trade can only empower those who resort to torture and can only help to legitimize an illegal international practice.”

Omega will continue to work for the strongest standards possible, sharing the results of our investigations into this trade and advocating for truly effective international controls that prohibit the trade in inherently abusive equipment and strictly regulate the trade in other law enforcement equipment that is misused for torture.