Torture goods: Council adopts amending regulation

Council of the EU
  • 14/11/2016
  • 10:20
  • Press release
  • 659/16
  • International trade & customs
  • Foreign affairs & international relations
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On 14 November 2016, the Council adopted an amending regulation concerning goods that can be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The agreement will enable regulation 1236/2005 to be amended in the light of developments since it entered into force in 2006. It provides for modifications to the current rules on export controls, for new controls on brokering services and technical assistance, for a ban on advertising of certain goods and for amendment of the definition of other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The aim is to prevent EU exports from contributing to human rights violations in third countries.

A ban on torture and ill-treatment is enshrined in United Nations conventions on human rights. At EU level, the Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits capital punishment and provides that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". The EU also promotes respect for fundamental rights around the world.

2005 regulation on torture goods

Regulation 1236/2005 bans the export and import of equipment/goods that can only be used for torture or capital punishment. Such goods are listed in annex II to the regulation.

The regulation requires specific licences for exports of equipment/goods that could have such uses but which also have legitimate applications. Such goods are subject to a case-by-case assessment and are listed in annexes III and IIIA to the regulation.

In December 2011, the regulation was amended to control the export of drugs that could be used in executions by lethal injection.


The new regulation allows for exports to countries that are parties to international conventions on capital punishment to be covered by a general authorisation. The country must have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and the goods must not be re-exported to other countries.

The new regulation also imposes a ban on the brokering of equipment that is subject to an import and export ban as listed in annex II, so as to cover transfers of goods that are not located in the EU. It additionally bans the provision of brokering services by any broker who is aware that goods listed in annex III or IIIA may be used for torture or capital punishment.

The regulation bans the supply of technical assistance (concerning goods listed in annex III or IIIA) by anyone who is aware that the equipment in question may be used for torture or capital punishment.

It also adjusts the definition of other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the light of case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.

It furthermore provides for an urgency procedure in case rapid amendment of the regulation's annexes is necessary when new goods enter the market.

Under the agreement with the European Parliament, the agreed text:

  • introduces a prior authorisation regime for brokering services and technical assistance for goods listed in  annex III and IIIA
  • prohibits the transport of goods in transit if they are listed in annex II, and of those listed  in annex III or IIIa if the economic operator has information about their use in the country of destination
  • prohibits the advertising and promotion at exhibitions and trade fairs of goods listed in annex II
  • establishes a coordination group, which will serve as a platform for member state experts and the Commission to exchange information on administrative practices and which will also discuss questions of interpretation, developments and implementation of the regulation