Putting an end to trade in death and torture

Source: A.C. (Cecilia) Malmström i, published on Tuesday, October 4 2016.

With a massive majority, the European Parliament today voted to significantly sharpen our controls of exports of goods that can be used for carrying out the death penalty and torture. This follows successful negotiations between the Parliament, Council and Commission earlier this year, and a new and revised legislative proposal from the Commission.

Today, I took part in the parliamentary debate in Strasbourg on this issue. The vote that followed is truly a reason to celebrate - it shows that our commitment to protect human rights is not just an empty statement, but that it can deliver results in the field of trade. With this revised EU Regulation, we can make a true impact in stopping the trade in these instruments of death and pain.

Concretely, we are talking about lethal drug injection systems, about electric chairs and gas chambers, lethal poison, shock belts and spiked batons. Such terrible devices have no place in our societies. Now, we make it more difficult for states to continue to impose the death penalty, constantly reminding the countries responsible that we condemn these practices.

We can never accept loopholes that allow these terrible goods to be traded or promoted.

For instance, we've seen the urgent need to ban the promotion of these products at trade fairs in Europe. The already existing legislation banned the export of prohibited products, but did not cover the possibility of them being offered for sale or presented at exhibitions. So products used for torture were on display at trade fairs here in the EU, and offered in catalogues or newspapers - simply shocking. That is one of the loopholes that we are now making sure is firmly shut.

We also introduce a fast-track mechanism to make sure that new products of this kind can be banned quickly. It is wildly important to make sure that authorities can keep up with new developments and new technology. Under ordinary law-making procedures, it is difficult for the law to stay ahead of the curve. Through this mechanism, we will be able to quickly update our list of prohibited goods.

We are also now banning the transit of these products. The legislation that we already have in place was effective in restricting the export of these goods to countries outside the EU. But it did not apply to them being sent from a non-EU country, transiting here, and then ending up somewhere else. So some of these products were shipped through EU ports and airports. The new regulation will put an end to that. And brokers who are engaged in this trade will no longer be allowed to provide technical assistance or maintenance of equipment.

So today, the EU shows leadership. In the EU trade policy strategy that I presented last year, called Trade for All, I set out our commitment to make the respect for human rights an essential element of our trade policy, and in our relations with other countries. We are delivering on that promise. This new legislation will prevent our involvement in trading in death and torture, and contribute to upholding the respect for human rights.

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