Alliance

for Torture-Free Trade

To stop the trade in goods used for capital punishment and torture

The Alliance for Torture-Free Trade is an initiative of Argentina, the European Union and Mongolia, bringing together countries from around the world. Its aim is to end the trade in goods used to carry out the death penalty and torture.

The countries of the Alliance commit themselves to take measures to control and restrict exports of such products. We also want to monitor trade routes and exchange information in order to put an end to this trade.

On 18 September 2017, the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade was launched at a special event at the beginning of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

At the launch event, a joint political declaration was adopted by the 58 participating countries.

Declaration & participating countries    Watch the event

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About us

The Alliance for Torture-Free Trade aims to end the trade in goods used for capital punishment and torture.

What we want

The Alliance for Torture-Free Trade is an initiative of Argentina, the European Union and Mongolia, bringing together countries from around the world.

Its aim is to end the trade in goods used for capital punishment and torture.

Over the last few decades, more and more countries worldwide have committed themselves to eradicating the death penalty, torture, and inhuman and degrading treatment, through the development of United Nations conventions and protocols.

Yet, despite these improvements, many countries continue to systematically carry out torture and the death penalty, using products that are traded and shipped internationally.

Domestic export bans on torture and execution equipment in many countries have made this trade more difficult in recent years, and Argentina, the European Union and Mongolia recognised the need to take further steps to end it.

EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Argentina's Minister for Foreign Affairs Jorge Faurie co-sign the invitation for countries to join the Alliance. 3 July 2017

Together, on 18 September 2017 they launched the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade at a special event at the beginning of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, inviting many more countries to join. 58 participants in the Alliance adopted a political declaration at the launch event.

The purpose of this global alliance is to make it significantly more difficult to obtain products intended for carrying out the death penalty and commit torture. With this in mind, participating countries signed up to:

  • Take measures to control and restrict exports of these goods.
  • Exchange practices on how to shut down this trade – how to establish efficient control and enforcement systems.
  • Set up a platform for monitoring and exchanging information, so customs authorities can see trade flows and identify new products.
  • Provide technical assistance between the countries in the Alliance, to help them put national legislation in place.

Tools of death & pain

International law bans torture.

Yet trade in instruments of torture continues. Products designed solely to inflict pain and terror are bought and sold around the world. And even though ever more countries are abolishing capital punishment, the trade in the goods that some governments use to carry out executions goes on.

This trade must stop.

By joining the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade, countries around the world commit to controlling and restricting exports of these goods, and making it easier for customs authorities to track down this despicable trade.

These are some examples of products that are being used for torture and execution.

Spiked baton

Spiked baton

Batons or truncheons – usually made of metal but can also be made of rubber, hardened plastic or wood – with sharp metal spikes along part or all of the shaft.

These are specially designed instruments of torture. They cannot be used without inflicting serious and unwarranted injury or pain.

© Robin Ballantyne, Omega Research Foundation, UK

Electric shock grabber

Electric shock grabber

Extendable pole with a half loop at one end large enough to fit around a person's waist or limbs and administer an electric shock. Designed to hold a person back or pin them to a wall and cause compliance through pain.

Such devices risk causing death through strangulation or serious injury to the neck or limbs, especially if the pole is twisted or jerked to force compliance.

© Robin Ballantyne, Omega Research Foundation, UK

Shock belt

Shock belt

A remote controlled device with capabilities to deliver electric shocks. Designed to be worn on the body, usually around the waist, arm, leg or ankle. It has also been incorporated into a vest with multiple contact points, including on the shoulders and waist.

Even if the electric shock component is never triggered, the mere fact of wearing a device that can deliver a painful shock at any moment causes profound mental suffering.

© Robin Ballantyne, Omega Research Foundation, UK

Lethal injections

Automatic drug injection systems for carrying out the death penalty by administering a lethal chemical substance.

Execution by forced lethal injection often involves heavy doses of three chemicals: an anaesthetic or sedative, pancuronium bromide to paralyse the muscles including the diaphragm, and potassium chloride to stop the heart.

© By CACorrections (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | © Sherry Young - Fotolia

Shrew's fiddle

Shrew's fiddle

A shrew's fiddle has three holes: a large hole for the neck and two smaller holes for the wrists.

It was originally used in the middle ages but is still being manufactured today.

Gas chamber

Gas chamber

A sealable chamber made of steel and glass, with a chair into which the subject is strapped. Contains equipment for introducing a lethal gas or substance into the chamber and an exhaust fan or similar for removing the poisoned air from the chamber after execution.

© By Ken Piorkowski [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Victims' stories

Torture is an entire system designed for fear. In jail, they electrocuted me for any reason – for having gone to a school that was close to some protests, or just for being on Facebook.

They took off all my clothes. A doctor came to measure my body mass, to decide which level of torture I would be facing. Once, seven men beat me for five hours straight. Each night, on the way to the interrogation room, I would step over dead bodies.

Marina Nemat
Qutaiba Idlbi
Syrian refugee and activist

I was drowning in pain. I thought I was going to die, I thought I was going to pass out, but I didn't.

I would have done anything - really, anything - to stop it. I realised at that moment what torture is, and what it does.

Torture is not designed to kill you, or even to get information. It is designed to kill the human soul.

Marina Nemat
Marina Nemat
Tortured and sentenced to death in Iran

The last time my mother and father saw each other was in the van to the police station. Immediately when they arrived, my father was taken to a torture chamber. For hours, his tormentors beat him severely, suffocated him underwater, and used special tools to pull out his nails and electrocute him. The next day, he was dead.

The lessons that we, as societies, must learn from such terrible experiences are more necessary than ever.

Marina Nemat
Manuel Schaerer Kanonnikoff
The Stroessner military regime in
Paraguay killed his father

Photos for download

High-resolution photos from the launch of the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade on September 18 are available here. All photos - including examples of tools used for torture - are free to use for the media. Information about image credits to be used is also available at the links below.

Instruments of torture

These photos are a few examples of products that are being used for torture and execution

Free for media use.
Credit: © Robin Ballantyne, Omega Research Foundation, UK.

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Event photos

Photos from the launch of the Alliance at UN headquarters in New York on 18 September, including speakers and country representatives.

Free for media use.
Credit: European Union.

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