EU tightens ban on torture equipment

Leg shackles in South Sudan, 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Leg shackles in South Sudan: Torture is rife in the world's conflict zones

The European Parliament has voted to tighten up legislation banning exports of torture equipment from the EU.

The vote in Strasbourg is intended to close loopholes in the EU's 2005 anti-torture regulation, and the move is backed by EU governments.

The ban includes items such as portable electric shock devices, shackles and handcuffs modified to inflict pain.

The changes extend restrictions on chemicals used in executions and ban training in torture techniques.

The EU's prohibition on the death penalty has already limited US prison authorities' access to some chemicals used to kill death row prisoners by lethal injection.

The new legislation also seeks to block the transit of torture equipment through EU countries.

European companies will be barred from advertising such equipment at trade fairs or online.

Amnesty International says there is a flourishing global market in "sinister equipment like leg chains and spike batons, which can easily be turned into tools of torture" and "introducing tighter EU restrictions on the sale, brokering and promotion of these devices will bring us a step closer to eradicating this shameful trade".

The Dutch liberal MEP steering the new law, Marietje Schaake, says tougher rules are needed because "torture continues in half of the 158 countries that ratified a convention banning it".

"In the name of security and counter-terrorism we often turn a blind eye to very grave human rights violations," she said.

The updated regulation now needs formal approval by the Council - the EU governments - to become law.

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