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Sustainable development | Brussels, 25 September 2018

Countries launch UN work to shut down global trade in torture tools

UN work to shut down global trade in torture tools.

On Monday, 24 September, the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade agreed to step up the pace of its efforts and work towards a United Nations instrument - such as a binding convention - to stop the trade in instruments for torture and the death penalty. The Alliance for Torture-Free Trade is an initiative of the European Union, Argentina and Mongolia.

In a further boost to its work, the Alliance also saw a further five countries joining, bringing the total to more than 60. By joining the Alliance, countries commit themselves to restricting exports of these goods and to making it easier for customs authorities to track down shipments and identify new products.

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, who co-hosted the Alliance's first Ministerial meeting, held in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York said: "Systematic use of torture is a crime against humanity. Today, we demonstrate our commitment to human rights and taking concrete steps to eradicating torture and capital punishment. Torture is an instrument of fear and has no place in any society. We've come together with one voice to say that we will not stand for this trade – not in our countries, or anywhere else in the world."

The five additional countries joining the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade at the Ministerial were Australia, Cape Verde, New Zealand, Palau and Vanuatu.

The Alliance believes that UN instruments such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Arms Trade treaty (ATT) provide working examples of international agreements to stop unwanted trade. Today's agreement to push for UN action marks a step forward in the process to create a global framework for shutting down the trade in goods used to torture people or to carry out executions.

The Alliance has in its sights goods such as batons with metal spikes, electric shock belts, grabbers that seize people while electrocuting them, chemicals used for executions, as well as gas chambers and electric chairs.

Opened by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the Ministerial meeting saw contributions from a range of Ministers and a series of international experts, among them Secretary-General of Amnesty International Kumi Naidoo. They testified to the horrors that are still carried out daily with the panoply of goods manufactured and then bought and sold internationally in a lucrative trade.

In her opening speech, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said torture had directly affected her family. "Torture is a grave attack on human dignity," she said. "It inflicts severe damage on both victims and societies."

In recent years, export bans on torture and execution equipment - like the legislation in place in the EU - have made the trade in these goods more difficult. Such laws have not ended it, however; traffickers find ways to circumvent bans and controls through other countries. This is why the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade now aims to expand and take further steps.

Full list of countries in the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade

Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, European Union.

For more information

The website of the Alliance

The declaration agreed by the countries during the Ministerial

Photos and videos are available on EbS

Photos from the Ministerial meeting

Video from the ministerial meeting

Press photos of instruments of torture