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.
The EU’s 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. The Regulation:
- 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;
- 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;
- regulates the trade in certain pharmaceutical chemicals which could be used for in lethal injection executions, without limiting trade of such chemicals for legitimate purposes;
- sets out the destinations to which a European Union Export Authorisation applies, because those countries or territories have abolished capital punishment for all crimes and confirmed that abolition through an international commitment.
The role of the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments
As part of its responsibility for foreign policy-related regulatory instruments, the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments is the lead service for Regulation (EU) 2019/125 of 16 January 2019 concerning trade in certain goods that 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 Council Regulation (EC) No 1236/2005 that were adopted since its entry into force.
Review of the Anti-torture Regulation
The Commission adopted on 30 July 2020 its report to the European Parliament and to the Council on the implementation of the ‘Anti-Torture’ Regulation (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).
The review report provides a comprehensive assessment of the Regulation, which introduced unprecedented and binding trade restrictions on a range of goods used for capital punishment, torture or other ill treatment. Assessing its impact, influence on the global level, challenges and opportunities, the report outlines further action. This aims to make the Regulation and its implementation more effective and to ensure the ‘Anti-Torture’ Regulation continues to make an important contribution to the fight against torture and the death penalty.
The report is available here.
The Alliance for Torture-Free Trade
The EU cooperates with partners around the world to translate its commitment to eradicating torture and death penalty into concrete actions. Inspired by the ‘Anti-Torture’ EU Regulation, in September 2017 the EU, together with Argentina and Mongolia, launched the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade. Since then, over sixty countries have joined the fight to end the trade in goods used to carry out the death penalty and torture. Alliance members commit to take measures to control and restrict exports of such goods used through domestic legislation and efficient enforcement. In September 2018, the Alliance called for a United Nations General Assembly Resolution on torture-free trade. The adoption of a UN General Assembly resolution on 21 June 2019 marked an early and important success. Following up on that resolution, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on behalf of the UN Secretary General, conducted further work, leading to a report of the UN Secretary General (‘Towards torture-free trade: examining the feasibility, scope and parameters for possible common international standards’). This report constitutes a further milestone in that it recognizes that the establishment of common international standards could ensure more effective regulation in this area. A UN group of governmental experts continues the work on the basis of the report of the UN Secretary General with the objective of delivering its report to the UN General Assembly for its consideration at its seventy-fifth session in 2021.