September 19, 2017 / 4:42 AM / a year ago

Ban torture tools from spiked batons to stun belts, nations say

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Nearly 60 countries rallied against the trade of instruments of torture in New York on Monday, a move that could make it harder for countries to carry out executions.

The bloc is seeking to ban the trade of goods such as batons with metal spikes, electric shock belts and lethal drug cocktails, its members said at a side event to the United Nations’ annual General Assembly which begins on Tuesday.

“Products that can be used for torture and (the) death penalty are available to buy in the open market,” Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union’s trade chief, told an audience of dignitaries and journalists.

“They can be ordered through (the) internet.”

The Alliance for Torture-Free Trade was spearheaded by the European Union, Mongolia and Argentina. Abolition of the death penalty is a central tenet of the EU’s foreign policy and is also a requirement for countries seeking to join the 28-nation bloc.

Though torture is banned under international law, tools of torture are a booming trade said Michael Crowley, a representative of the Omega Research Foundation. The UK-based group researches the trade and the use of military, security and police equipment.

One can buy “in many parts of the world” shields and belts that deliver electroshocks, police shields mounted with large blades, and weighted leg irons, he said.

“This trade thrives in large part because many states are either not aware or else turn a blind eye to its existence and the role it plays in facilitating torture,” he said.

In an emotional testimony, torture victim Marina Nemat saluted the political declaration after describing having the soles of her feet lashed at with rubber cables until they became “indigo blue” about 40 years ago.

The beating occurred in a Tehran prison after the then 16-year-old was arrested for protesting against Iran’s Islamic government, she said.

“These men tied me to a bare wooden bed,” she said. “They beat me and beat me and beat me.”

“With every strike of the lash my nervous system would explode,” said the human rights advocate who now lives in Canada and wrote a best-selling memoir, “Prisoner of Tehran”, about her imprisonment.

The 58 countries that joined the alliance committed to better policing the export of goods that can be used for torture and to assist customs authorities to shut down the trade with technical assistance and information exchange, said Malmstrom.

They include Brazil, Ecuador, France, Canada, Switzerland, Britain and Mexico.

Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

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