• Press Release

EU: Council must end commercial advertising of brutal tools of torture in Europe

May 9, 2016

The European Union (EU) must immediately crack down on the unhindered commercial advertisement within its member states of security equipment potentially used to inflict cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment on people, said Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation in a new report published today.

The report,Why the EU should ban the commercial marketing and promotion of inhumane policing and prison equipment’ details how legal loopholes have allowed potential tools of torture, such as spiked batons, thumbcuffs and spiked shields, to be advertised and sometimes displayed at trade fairs within the EU – despite trading in these items being already banned under the EU’s ‘Torture Trade Regulation.’

“The reality is that items intended to inflict horrific levels of human suffering are openly on display at trade fairs in Europe and being advertised by their manufacturers. This flagrantly undermines the spirit of the regulation which bans these very items from import and export in an effort to ensure no person or company profits from the sickening torture trade,” said Iverna McGowan, head of the Amnesty International European Institutions Office.

“The EU and its member states must get their shop in order and ban the advertisement of thumbcuffs, spiked batons and any other barbaric equipment which can only be used to inflict cruel and degrading punishment on other human beings.”

The report documents how items banned under the Torture Trade Regulation are being advertised both online and at events such as the 2015 Milipol security exhibition in Paris.

Thumbcuffs, spiked batons, spiked shields and weighted leg restraints were all commercially promoted at Milipol, despite the import of these products into the EU and their export to non-EU countries being prohibited.

Worryingly, a spiked shield and a set of weighted leg restraints were also physically displayed at Milipol, raising further questions on how these illegal items could have been transported into the EU.

“Year upon year, we have uncovered evidence of companies advertising torture equipment at security exhibitions such as Milipol, or promoting such goods online. Yet each time we have presented our findings to France, Germany and other EU States calling on them to end such practices, they have refused.” said Dr Michael Crowley of the Omega Research Foundation.

“It is now time for EU governments to act in good faith to fulfil their international obligations to combat torture and ill-treatment, and to ensure Europe no longer remains a market place for inhumane policing and prison equipment.”

In October 2015, the European Parliament made a specific proposal to prohibit the commercial marketing and promotion of all items banned under the Torture Trade Regulation, both physically and online. This proposal was not accepted by the Council of the EU, and is currently being discussed in informal ‘trilogue’ negotiations between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council.

Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation are urging the Council of the EU to agree to the European Parliament’s amendment, and to robustly implement it to ensure that no person or company trading within EU jurisdiction can continue making a profit from this trade in implements of human suffering.


With the entry into force in 2006 of Council Regulation 1236/2005, the EU introduced unprecedented and binding trade controls on a range of equipment which is often used in capital punishment, torture and other ill-treatment (“tools of torture”), but which has not usually been included by EU member states in their military, dual-use or strategic export control lists.

Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation produced four previous reports in 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2015 which identified specific loopholes in the provisions of the EU regulation and also omissions in the EU’s two lists of prohibited and controlled items that allowed the trade in “tools of torture” to continue.

On July 16, 2014, the Commission responded positively by introducing an Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 775/2014 to further expand the list of prohibited goods and the list of controlled goods covered by the regulation. These two lists can be found in the Appendix of thereport.