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Sustainable development | Brussels, 18 September 2017

EU launches global Alliance for Torture-Free Trade

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström is in New York today to launch an international Alliance for Torture-Free Trade. The initiative – a joint effort with Argentina and Mongolia – aims to end the trade in goods used for capital punishment and torture. Today’s formal launch will take place at the United Nations’ headquarters at the start of the United Nations General Assembly week.

The Alliance for Torture-Free Trade is a global effort by countries from all over the world to stop the trade in goods used for torture and the death penalty. International law bans torture in all circumstances. Yet despite this, tools of death and pain are still traded across the globe. These include batons with metal spikes, electric shock belts, and grabbers that seize people by the waist or limb while electrocuting them, chemicals used to execute people and the forced injection systems that go with them.

The launch is the result of a joint effort between the EU, Argentina and Mongolia, and will see countries signing up to a joint political declaration (the website of the Alliance – Some 50 UN member countries in total are expected to join on launch day, from around the globe – Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. The Alliance could become a basis for broader UN cooperation in this field.

By signing up to the Alliance, countries will be agreeing to the four action points:

  • Take measures to control and restrict exports of these goods;
  • Equip customs authorities with appropriate tools. The Alliance will set up a platform to monitor trade flows, exchange information, and identify new products;
  • Make technical assistance available to help countries with setting up and implementing laws to ban this trade;
  • Exchange practices for efficient control and enforcement systems.

The EU is committed to protecting human rights, and to the fight against torture and the abolition of the death penalty. The EU’s tough legislation on trade in goods used for torture or the death penalty has already reaped results. Partly as a consequence of tougher EU rules, drugs for lethal injections have become more difficult to get and more expensive to buy.

But EU legislation only applies in Europe. Producers and traders of these goods try to circumvent EU laws, so the more countries that commit themselves to banning their export, the more effective efforts will be to put an end to the trade. The Alliance is a way to take concrete action and specific steps to stop the trade in such goods globally, making it significantly more difficult to obtain them.


One of the aims of the EU’s foreign policy is to promote respect for fundamental rights. Its commitment to stopping torture and abolishing capital punishment includes since 2005 measures to prevent the trade in goods that could be used for capital punishment or torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The EU lists banned products and provides for a fast-track mechanism to make sure that new products can also be banned. It has in place rules for export controls to prevent listed medicinal products from being used for capital punishment, bans supplying brokering services related to any listed goods, and technical support to third countries. Last year, the EU tightened its legislation even further to make sure it includes a ban on transit through EU territory and in ports, and promotion, such as at trade fairs.

For more information 

Alliance for Torture-Free Trade, including information about the goals of the Alliance and registration for the launch event.

Downloadable videos and photos are available on Europe by Satellite (EbS), including images of torture tools and an interview with Commissioner Malmström.