Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

Remarks by Ambassador Skoog: Towards Torture-free Trade

11/12/2020 - 00:00
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11 December 2020, New York - Remarks by Ambassador Olof Skoog, Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations at "Towards Torture-free Trade: Opportunities and Challenges"

11 December 2020 - Towards Torture-free Trade

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Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, a very warm welcome to our event on torture-free trade on the occasion of International Human Rights Day.

Let me welcome High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore who will deliver key-note remarks, as well as our partner and co-chair Ambassador María del Carmen Squeff of Argentina and the distinguished civil society panellists.

Earlier this year, the UN Secretary General called us to put human rights and human dignity at the heart of all efforts. The UN member states answered his call to action in the UN at 75th anniversary Declaration by recommitting to ensure the human rights and fundamental freedoms of everyone.

This is exactly the objective of the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade, a cross regional initiative created in 2017 to prevent, restrict and ban the trade in goods used for capital punishment, torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment.

Capital punishment, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are abhorrent violations of human rights. The international community has been united in its condemnation of torture. 171 states have ratified the UN Convention against Torture and have thereby pledged to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in their territory.

Yet, there is no rule at the international level to regulate the trade in goods used for torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. While the number of countries applying the death penalty continues to decrease, torture is still practiced either in isolated cases or systematically.

A milestone was reached last year with the adoption by the General Assembly of resolution 73/304, which expressed the commitment of the majority of UN member states to put an end to torture trade. Pursuant to the resolution, the Secretary General recently published a feasibility study outlining best practices, notably based on the 2005 EU regulation on the trade in goods that could be used for capital punishment or torture. A group of experts should now be established to take work forward.

Time is of the essence, we will hear in a few minutes from the High Commissioner about her Office’s plans to swiftly establish the group. The group should be made of qualified experts, who are committed to the objectives set out in resolution 73/304 of a world without torture and capital punishment.

As we will hear from EU Special Representative Eamon Gilmore, the EU is ready to do its part. We have had a regulation in place for the past 15 years and the advancement of torture-free trade is a priority of the new EU Action Plan for Human Rights 2020-2024. We stand ready to support the Group of Experts and look forward to its recommendations.

Thank you again for joining us.


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