The EU passed a resolution today banning the trade on equipment designed for torture, hailing the move as a step forward in the fight to protect human rights. But as the world’s biggest arms fair continues in Paris, will the new legislation have any concrete effect?
By Marijke Peters, 17.6.2010, RNW.nl Click here to listen to an interview with Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake The European Parliament’s resolution on “Tools of Torture” urges swift action to prohibit the use and sale of torture instruments, including fixed wall restraints, metal thumb cuffs, and electroshock sleeves that can be used to deliver shocks of 50,000 volts to prisoners. It was passed in response to pressure from rights group Amnesty International, which has now urged the European Commission to turn the commitment into law. Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake, from the Liberal block in the European Parliament, was one of a group of people behind the resolution: “The resolution should be, in my opinion, as inclusive as possible, so it should have a wide range of such products and I’m strongly in favour of including certain new technological tools that exist because developments have gone on since the first draft of this resolution and this guideline came out.” Tougher line Although Marietje Schaake says the resolution is likely to be approved by the Commission, she acknowledges that some European governments take a tougher line on weapons of torture than others. France has this week come under fire for allowing Chinese companies to exhibit at the Eurosatory arms fair, being held in Paris this week, in spite of an EU-wide ban on selling weapons to Beijing. The implementation of the provisions in the deal reached today, will ensure such arms fairs are far more strictly regulated in future, says Schaake: “If we, as Europeans, say we have community values and we hold human rights so high in esteem then the only way is to have an integrated approach to human rights and the respect for human rights. “Torture, inhumane treatment and the death penalty are certainly practises we want to see banned everywhere and so the tools that bring about this kind of behaviour should also be banned. It’s a logical consequence.” More work to be done Amnesty International welcomed today’s resolution but says it is only the first step towards eliminating the use of weapons of torture within Europe. Spokesman David Nichols said: “We can see from a lot of the equipment that’s marketed by European companies and from the evidence of our own research, that there are clear loopholes in the current regulations and their implementation by member states. “Following this vote in the Parliament, it’s now up to the European Commission and member states to close those loopholes and amen the list of goods that are restricted and banned so they’re up to date with technical advances, and to adopt catch-all clauses that prevent items that can be used by regimes that practise torture.”