The European Union likes to cast itself as a champion of human rights, both at home and beyond its borders. So why is the E.U. allowing European firms to export thumbscrews, stun guns and other devices that could be used for torture to countries with spotty human rights records?
According to the human rights watchdog Amnesty International, businesses making these types of implements are flourishing in Europe and exporting their products in spite of an E.U. ban on the trade. In a report released earlier this month, Amnesty said firms in Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic and Italy were selling items like electroshock “sleeves” and “cuffs” capable of delivering 50,000-volt shocks, spiked batons and fixed wall restraints to at least nine countries, including Pakistan, China and the U.A.E. Amnesty, which co-published the report with the London-based Omega Research Foundation, says the companies are using legal loopholes to evade restrictions put in place after the E.U. passed a law in 2006 banning the sale of torture equipment.