European Union

European Council Regulation (EC) 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 Anti-torture Regulation) was the first legally-binding regional control regime on the trade in tools of torture. It serves as an inspiration for other human rights-based trade control processes.

The Regulation, which came into force in 2006, covers the trade in two different categories of equipment. First, those the EU has designated to have no practical use other than for capital punishment, torture or other ill-treatment. The Regulation prohibits importing, exporting, and promoting these goods as well as related services such as training. Second, the Regulation places trade controls on a range of other kinds of law enforcement equipment that could be used in human rights violations. It requires EU Member States to refuse to give export authorisation for these goods where there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that they might be used for torture or other ill-treatment. In addition to the transfer of goods, the Regulation covers technical assistance, brokering, training, promotion, and trade in related components and assembly kits.

Under the Regulation, EU Member States are required to report applications and export authorisations (granted and denied) to the European Commission, which publishes an annual report. While States are also required to make an annual activity report public, few do this consistently. 

Designed to be a “living instrument”, Omega monitors the Regulation’s implementation and advocates for it to be strengthened, including through regular engagement with EU officials. In 2011, for example, controls were strengthened around two kinds of inherently abusive equipment (body-worn electric shock devices and spiked batons). Further changes were made in 2014, 2016, and 2020.

The Regulation is now reviewed by the European Commission every five years (next: 2024).