Czech Republic picked out in Amnesty International report for exports of ‛torture’ equipment

Illustrative photo: Vít Pohanka, Czech Radio

The Czech Republic has come under fire in a report by human rights watchdog Amnesty International for exporting torture equipment to countries where they are likely to be used. Amnesty says the export of items like shackles that give electric shocks raise real concerns that clear EU rules banning trade in torture equipment are being breached.

The Amnesty International report called “From words to deeds” highlights loopholes in European Union rules dating from 2006 which aimed at stamping out trade in torture equipment by countries in the 27-member bloc. The step was heralded at the time as a landmark move to counter torture and bolster human rights.

Illustrative photo: Vít Pohanka, Czech Radio
The Czech Republic stands out in the report for a series of export approvals between 2006 and 2008 to countries where Amnesty says there was a high risk that the equipment would have been used to torture prisoners or political dissidents.

Export approvals were given for electric shock devices, chemical sprays and shackles to these countries with a dubious human rights record. David Nichols is in charge of foreign affairs at Amnesty International’s EU office in Brussels.

“There are a number of exports that have been granted to countries such as Georgia, Pakistan, Mongolia and Senegal where there is evidence of torture. We are still awaiting a response from the Czech government on what the destination of the exported equipment actually was”

Mr Nichols suggests the Czech approvals point out serious flaws in the way the supposed ban is being implemented in practice.

“We want to have a response from the Czech government on how despite this system they still exported security equipment to regimes like Pakistan and Senegal where there is already widespread evidence of torture, not just by us and other NGOs but by the UN and other international bodies”

In its favour, the Amnesty report does spell out that the Czech Republic was just one of seven EU countries, along with Britain, Spain and Germany, that came clean on where it had approved exports in recent years. The other 20 EU states did not reply to repeated demands. Mr Nichols says some countries clearly do not know what is happening with regard to their exports. He adds that some have denied local companies are producing torture equipment although Amnesty has proof that they are.

The Czech Republic also did refuse exports of equipment that could have been used for torture to Iran and Azerbaijan. According to media reports, the Iranian request was for 200 electric stun guns and for pepper spray.

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has the last word on export approvals, says it weighs up all export requests on a case by case basis and taking account of United Nations reports on torture and respect of human rights as well as information from local diplomats.