European Parliament votes to crack down on trade in torture goods

October 5, 2016 10:49 am 

STRASBOURG, Oct. 5 — The European Parliament, gathered for its plenary session here on Tuesday, voted overwhelmingly to crack down on European Union (EU) trade of goods and services used for torture and capital punishment in third countries.

The text, adopted with 612 votes in favor, 11 against and 54 abstentions, was a revision of a 2004 directive on the banning of goods destined for use in torture and which came into force in 2005.

The original "Anti-torture Regulation", while deemed partially effective in governing a ban in the trade of such goods, was considered by many critics to include too many loopholes.

"We are looking at the trade impact in instruments that are actually causing death and torture," declared European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom during the morning debate that preceded the vote. "I was shocked to see these products are exposed in trade fairs all over the European Union or offered in catalogues."

The new text was drawn up following negotiations between the European Parliament and EU member nations with the goal of stretching prohibition to the marketing and transit of equipment used for cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of people in third countries. The sale of technical assistance or training for such equipment will also be blocked.

"This [resolution] extends the ban to services facilitating this dreadful market of torture and death penalty goods and services," explained Marietje Schaake, the rapporteur for the adopted text, during the debate.

"We want to make sure we practice what we preach in Europe," the rapporteur insisted to a mostly empty Strasbourg hemicycle.

In addition to banning marketing, transit, and support services, the updated rules, once formally approved by the European Council, will include new mechanisms to allow the European Commission to update lists of prohibited goods and services in an accelerated procedure as new products are developed. Simultaneously, parliamentary experts will join a new anti-torture coordination group to oversee the application the new rules.

A review clause has also been added to the text to require the European Commission to review the regulation by August 2020, with special consideration required on whether the rules should be extended to include the activities of EU nationals abroad.

"I think we show that when the EU works together…we can really set international standards," rapporteur Schaake said during a press conference following the vote. "This shows that trade can raise the bar for human rights," she continued. (PNA/Xinhua)



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