Torture and the death penalty still take place in many countries around the world and the EU should play no part in delivering services or goods to make this possible, according to Marietje Schaake. The Dutch ALDE MEP is in charge of steering an updated version of the EU's anti-torture regulation through Parliament. MEPs debate her report on Tuesday and then vote on it the same day. We talked to her about why the regulation is necessary ahead of the vote.
What sort of products are we talking about?
We are seeking to limit the export of very blatant tools that are used for torture, such as chaining people or beating people. And also medicines that can be used to give lethal injection for example should not be sold to prisons or law enforcement agencies.
We need to have the legal tools that if a truck full of torture goods is found we can do something. And even if it’s in transit to a country outside the EU, Europe cannot just stand by. We also look to create a legal foundation from which it is possible to act when it’s necessary. Of course this is not happening every day but in the instances that it does happen it has huge consequences for individuals.
How big is the problem at the moment globally?
Human rights, most worryingly press freedom, are under pressure worldwide and so we have to be very vigilant in not only ensuring that we have robust open societies here at home in Europe. We should not lose sight of what’s happening in the rest of the world and how much Europe is needed to help advance the respect for universal human rights.
Is there a gap between what we preach and what we practice?
Absolutely, there is often a huge gap and double standards. For a long time, for example, we were very critical of human rights abuses in countries like Egypt. The past two years it seems like the choice has been to be much milder towards General Sisi who is now the president of Egypt and actually making matters worse than they have ever been according to human rights defenders I speak with. The EU is remarkably soft in tone towards Egypt.
In the name of security and counter-terrorism we often turn a blind eye to very grave human rights violations. I think there should not be an excuse. Terrorism should be countered, while respecting world law and human rights.