Anti-torture measures

Anti-torture measures

The absolute ban on torture and ill-treatment enshrined in core United Nations human rights conventions is reflected at EU level in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which states that ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. The Charter also prohibits capital punishment.

One of the aims of the Union’s foreign policy is to promote respect for fundamental rights in non-member countries.

As part of its responsibility for foreign policy-related regulatory instruments, the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) is the lead service for the Regulation (EU) 2019/125 of 16 January 2019 concerning trade in certain goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (‘Anti-Torture Regulation’). This Regulation consolidates the various amendments to the Council Regulation (EC) No 1236/2005 that were adopted since its entry into force.  

The Anti-Torture Regulation reflects the EU’s commitment to the eradication of torture and the death penalty through measures to prevent the trade in certain goods that could be used for capital punishment or torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

It prohibits exports and imports of goods that have no practical use other than for the purpose of capital punishment or for the purpose of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It also makes exports of goods that could be used for capital punishment, for torture or for cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, subject to a prior export authorisation issued by the competent authorities of the EU Member States. The lists of prohibited and controlled goods are set out in the Annexes of the Regulation (EU) 2019/125.

Capital punishment

Sodium thiopental and similar substances are used in lethal injections in several countries where the death penalty is still being applied.

In December 2011, the European Commission added these substances to the list of goods subject to export controls under the Anti-torture Regulation.

As proposed by the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council adopted specific rules for the export controls applied to such substances on 23 November 2016.

The Global alliance for Torture-Free Trade

Inspired by the Regulation, the EU cooperates with partners around the world to translate its commitment to eradicating torture and death penalty into concrete actions. In September 2017, together with Argentina and Mongolia, the European Union launched the Global Alliance for Torture-Free Trade. Since then, 62 countries have joined the fight to end the trade in goods used to carry out the death penalty and torture. Members of the Alliance commit themselves to take measures to control and restrict exports of such products.