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UN Experts Call For International Torture-free Trade Agreement

GENEVA (29 April 2024) – UN experts* called today on Member States to adopt a treaty prohibiting the trade, manufacture, and use of tools and equipment that inflict torture and to regulate their use by law enforcement and other public authorities, echoing similar calls from activists and experts including the UN Special Rapporteur on torture.

“Such an international treaty would be a significant milestone to help prevent and limit the excessive use of force and mistreatment by public authorities and law enforcement agencies, including in the context of peaceful protests,” the experts said. “It is crucial for the world to have a powerful mechanism to prevent the continuous human rights violations inflicted due to the misuse of such tools.”

In 2019, the UN General Assembly called for the adoption of agreed standards for torture-free trade. The experts said it was important for these standards to be implemented in line with the recently published Model Protocol for Law Enforcement Officials and the United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement.

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“There has been a worrying considerable spike in allegations of excessive and unnecessary use of force by law enforcement authorities in assemblies across the world in the past years,” the experts said. Particularly concerning has been the militarisation of law enforcement, tactics and equipment, in addition to the increased use of technologies without transparent and accountable guidance and regulations.”

A torture-free trade treaty is particularly important at a time of increasing mobilisation and demonstrations around the world, coupled with an increased use of force to supress protesters, they said.

Risks of serious injury and killings at the hands of security forces are also prevalent in detention or in medical facilities, they said.

The list of tools and equipment that could be used for torture will need to be regularly reviewed and updated, the UN experts said. They support the Special Rapporteur on Torture’s call for her list of twenty prohibited items to be immediately removed from production and use, in order for States to comply with their obligation under the absolute prohibition of torture.

“States should review and amend national laws and procedures to cease and prohibit the production, trade and use of tools and equipment violating the right to dignity, life, security and liberty.”

The experts’ full statement can be found here.

*The experts: Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Endorsed by: Ms. Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

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