Delegation of the European Union to the
UN and other international organisations in Geneva

Banning the Global Trade in Tools of Torture

21/06/2019 - 12:54
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On Friday 14 June, European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström took part to a panel discussion entitled “A norm in the Making: Banning the Global Trade in Tools of Torture”. Emphasizing the leading role of the European Union, Commissioner Malmström developed on the joint initiative under the Global Alliance for Torture-Free Trade, aiming at banning instruments of torture and capital punishment of international trade.

Over the last few decades, more and more countries worldwide have committed themselves to eradicating the death penalty, torture, and inhuman and degrading treatment, through the development of United Nations conventions and protocols. Yet, despite these improvements, many countries continue to systematically carry out torture and the death penalty, using products that are traded and shipped internationally. “Torture is a crime under international law, and cannot be justified under any circumstances. Systematic use of torture is a crime against humanity. The EU Trade Policy is now integrating the fight against torture as one of our common objectives contributing to its full eradication,” said Commissioner Malmström in her opening remarks. "If the international community is indeed sincere when denouncing such practices, this trade must be stopped."

The Alliance for Torture-Free Trade, an initiative of the European Union, Argentina, and Mongolia, aims at ending the trade in such goods, and seeks to eradicate torture, inhuman, and degrading treatment through the development of UN regulatory instruments. In September 2018, the Global Alliance for Torture-Free Trade agreed to step up the pace of its efforts and work towards a UN convention, to stop the trade in instruments for torture and the death penalty. Commissioner Malmström announced that the Alliance, backed by over 60-Member States was about to introduce a draft resolution before the UN General Assembly, with the view to adopt a legally binding instrument.It is time now for concluding an international instrument to establish common international rules for the export of products used for torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," Commissioner Malmström said.

In the ensuring discussion, members of the panel composed by Ms. Barbara Bernath, Secretary-General of the Association for the Prevention of Torture, Mr. Gerald Staberock, Secretary-General of the World Organization Against Torture, Mr. Michael Crowley, representative of the Omega Research Foundation, and Mr. Andrew Clapham, Professor at the Graduate Institute, discussed on implications of an international ban, and exchanged views on the upcoming challenges of the resolution.

Panelists welcomed the ambitious and positive resolution, and recalled its far reaching implications beyond trade, also contributing to development and peace. Experts also discussed the monitoring and implementation challenges of the resolution, and called on the development of strict control mechanisms at national levels.

Commissioner Malmström made a strong appeal to all Governments: "I would like to make a special call today here in Geneva, the capital of Human Rights, the city where the Committee against Torture meets. A call to all Governments, and civil society representatives to support the adoption of this resolution in New York that will be voted in the coming days. Spiked clubs, thumbscrews, gallows, electric chairs, gas chambers - banning these instruments will not put an end to torture, but it will make torturer’s lives more difficult, as well as stopping those who seek to profit from it."


The event was co-organized by the EU Delegation to the World Trade Organization and the Global Governance Center of the Graduate Institute.


Please find Commissioner Malmström's full intervention here


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