European Union: rules concerning the trade in products to be used for capital punishment or torture strengthened

On 4 October 2016, the European Parliament, following the initial proposal of the Commission, took an important decision in order to strengthen the trade rules concerning goods that could be used for capital punishment or torture.

Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice–President of the European Commission, said: “… As the European Union, we promote the global abolition of the death penalty with all the means, tools and instruments that are available to us […] The eradication of torture as well as the abolition of the death penalty requires political will and a joint effort of parliaments and civil society across the world. Today we are demonstrating that our European Union has always been and will remain at the frontline of this work …”. Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Trade, stated: “… In addition to prohibiting sales and exports, we are now banning the promotion of these goods at fairs and exhibitions, and introducing a fast-track mechanism to make sure that new products of this kind can be banned quickly …”.

One of the core values of the European Union is the respect of human rights. Together with trade, it is an essential element of the Union’s relations with third countries. The Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits capital punishment, torture and inhuman treatment or punishment.

In 2005, the Regulation (EC) 1236/2005 was approved, banning the export and import of goods the only possible use of which is the application of the death penalty or torture or other cruel treatment. Moreover, the Regulation imposes an export authorization requirement on goods that could be used for torture or ill-treatment.

Following the modification approved by the European Parliament, the Regulation will include specific rules for the export controls applied to prevent products from being used for capital punishment in a Third Country. A Union general export authorization is foreseen for exports to Countries which have abolished the death penalty. Moreover, a specific procedure will empower the European Commission to add additional products to the list of those used for capital punishment by one or more Third Countries.

Furthermore, the Regulation bans the supply of brokering services, technical assistance and training on the use of such products. Technical assistance in relation thereto also requires an authorization. In some cases, the general authorization may apply. Brokering services are defined as in Council Regulation (EC) 428/2009 setting up a Community regime to control exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items. Such Regulation stipulates that an authorization for brokering services is required whenever this kind of product is supplied to a Third Country.

Finally, the Regulation prohibits transit, that is to say the transport within the Union of non-EU goods in order to reach a Third Country. The ban on transit applies if the transporter knows that the goods are intended to be used for capital punishment or torture.

Pietro Michea