EU moves to close torture equipment ban loopholes

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Strasbourg (France) (AFP)

The European Parliament voted Tuesday to close loopholes in legislation banning the export of equipment that could be used for torture or execution in undemocratic countries.

Legislators updated their 2005 anti-torture legislation to bar European firms from advertising such equipment at trade fairs or online, voting by 612 votes to 11 with 54 abstentions.

"We made the new legislation stronger and more flexible so that the EU can respond quickly to any changes and to the development of new technologies," said Marietje Schaake, the Dutch liberal lawmaker who steered the legislation through the parliament.

The proposed tighter rules are aimed at blocking the advertising or display of equipment like spiked batons, thumb cuffs and spiked shields that had been legal under the previous legislation.

They also aim to block the transit of banned equipment through EU territory. Even though equipment like electric chairs and spiked thumbscrews were banned, they could pass through Europe under existing legislation.

They would also require transporters, if they have reason to believe the equipment will fall into the wrong hands, to stop the transit of goods that could be used for torture even though they are designed for other purposes.

The category covers weapons designed for riot control, or certain anaesthetics used in lethal injections.

Brokering services and technical assistance for banned goods will also be prohibited.

"Banning the death penalty and torture are key goals of European trade and foreign policy," Schaake said. "And it is essential that EU companies do not contribute to these practices."

EU member states must still approve the new legislation but it is expected to enter into force in 2017.

The European Commission, the executive of the 28-nation bloc, is to report by August 2020 on the ban's implementation.