Tools of Torture and Repression in South America: Use, manufacture and trade. July 2016

Available in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Countries researched: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The report details human rights violations perpetrated using specific types of law enforcement equipment; use of force standards; the companies involved in the manufacture and trade of equipment and issues of trade control.

The report’s key findings include:

  • There are widespread instances of torture and other ill-treatment against peaceful protesters and people held in places of detention. Most of the equipment used to perpetrate these human rights violations is common police equipment. Information and recommendations on kinetic impact weapons (hand-held batons and launched projectiles), chemical irritants (tear gas), live ammunition, stun grenades, mechanical restraints, water cannon and electric shock weapons.
  • State-owned manufacturers of law enforcement equipment have increased their range and volume of manufacturing. Private companies have increased production and are selling their products in domestic and overseas markets. In addition much police equipment is purchased from companies from outside the region, often imported through local agents.
  • South American manufacturers have exported equipment which has been used in mass repression, including in Turkey, Bahrain and Venezuela. This report details transfers of tear gas manufactured in Brazil to Egypt while it was under an EU embargo, and to Burkina Faso, subsequently diverted to Cote d'Ivoire, in violation of a UN embargo.
  • There is a lack of transparency on the types of law enforcement equipment that are subject to import and export trade controls. To improve export control regimes, clear lists of equipment whose export is subject to licensing should be included in national legislation, controls should be implemented effectively and robust human rights safeguards should be put in place in order to avoid irresponsible transfers. A major concern is the lack of transparency in reporting exports. Licensed production agreements are becoming more common and States should take measures to prevent them from being used to evade export controls.