EU countries trading in tools of torture

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Last month Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation published a report showing how European companies are participating in the global trade in types of equipment widely used in torture or other ill-treatment. Fixed wall restraints, metal "thumb-cuffs", and electroshock "sleeves" and "cuffs" that deliver 50,000V shocks to detained prisoners are amongst the "tools of torture" highlighted in the report, From Words to Deeds. Such activities have continued despite the 2005 introduction of a Europe-wide law banning the international trade of policing and security equipment designed for torture and ill-treatment.

IPS reported yesterday that not only are European states exporting the tools of torture, they're importing them too. Under the 2006 rules, the EU has expressly prohibited the 'Band-It' system which is attached to a prisoner's arms or legs and administers an electric shock of 50,000 volts. Here is a video purporting to show the device in action.

Despite the ban, the manufacturer of the device, Florida-based firm Stinger Systems, has acknowledged that it exports such goods to Europe, though it refused to specify which countries. "We only sell to military and law enforcement authorities" said Bob Gruder, the company's president. "Our products are sold worldwide but we prefer not to disclose where," he told IPS.

Those involved in the import and export of torture tools rely on a defence of only selling their wares to law enforcement and military personnel, as if this somehow negates the potential for torture or ill-treatment. A spokesman for Sirien, a Belgian company named as a Stinger agent in the AI/Omega report, told Time Magazine: "The problem with Amnesty International is that they only see the bad side to everything... Yes, these can be used to torture but so can all sorts of ordinary devices like knives, forks and spoons".

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