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Ban the trade of instruments of torture
by Reuters, agencies
Sept 18, 2017 (Reuters)
Nearly 60 countries have rallied against the trade of instruments of torture in New York, a move that could make it harder for countries to carry out executions.
The bloc is seeking to ban the trade of goods such as batons with metal spikes, electric shock belts and lethal drug cocktails, its members said.
"Products that can be used for torture and the death penalty are available to buy in the open market," Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union''s trade chief, told an audience of dignitaries and journalists. "They can be ordered through the internet."
The Alliance for Torture-Free Trade was spearheaded by the European Union, Mongolia and Argentina. Abolition of the death penalty is a central tenet of the EU''s foreign policy and is also a requirement for countries seeking to join the 28-nation bloc.
Though torture is banned under international law, tools of torture are a booming trade said Michael Crowley, a representative of the Omega Research Foundation. The UK-based group researches the trade and the use of military, security and police equipment.
One can buy "in many parts of the world" shields and belts that deliver electroshocks, police shields mounted with large blades, and weighted leg irons, he said.
"This trade thrives in large part because many states are either not aware or else turn a blind eye to its existence and the role it plays in facilitating torture," he said.
In a moving testimony, torture victim Marina Nemat saluted the political declaration after describing having the soles of her feet lashed at with rubber cables until they became "indigo blue" about 40 years ago.
The beating occurred in a Tehran prison after the then 16-year-old was arrested for protesting against Iran''s government, she said. "These men tied me to a bare wooden bed," she said. "They beat me and beat me and beat me."
"With every strike of the lash my nervous system would explode," said the human rights advocate who now lives in Canada and wrote a best-selling memoir, "Prisoner of Tehran", about her imprisonment.
The 58 countries that joined the alliance committed to better policing the export of goods that can be used for torture and to assist customs authorities to shut down the trade with technical assistance and information exchange, said Malmstrom. They include Brazil, Ecuador, France, Canada, Switzerland, Britain and Mexico.

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UN expert panel calls for new international standards on private military and security companies
by Gabor Rona
UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries
Sept. 2017
A United Nations expert group has urged States to establish a comprehensive, legally binding instrument to regulate private military and security companies (PMSCs).
The call from the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries comes after a four-year global study of national laws found they were not strong or consistent enough to deal with the issue.
“Our global study, which covers 60 States from all regions of the world, shows that there are more regulatory gaps than good practices in national laws concerning the industry,” said Gabor Rona, head of the Working Group, in his presentation to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“This is a growth industry in which the use of force is common, often in conflict situations where State governance is weak and the rule of law is compromised,” he added. “The global study shows that States approach regulation of these private firms in an inconsistent and patchy manner.”
Grave human rights violations have often been committed in past conflicts at the hands of contractors who may not be properly trained and vetted, and do not answer to a military chain of command. The lack of robust regulation leads to impunity for war crimes and other violations of international law, and leaves victims unable to obtain redress.
“Our main concern is not about whether PMSC operations are legal, but with the lack of strong legal frameworks in the industry to safeguard against human rights violations,” said Mr. Rona. “Where such violations take place, it is essential to bring perpetrators to justice and provide effective remedies for victims.”
The Working Group has repeatedly called for an international legally binding instrument to address issues such as the extra-territorial activities of companies, and to require that PMSC personnel be trained in human rights and humanitarian law standards.
“In an industry where companies commonly operate across borders, an international instrument would establish important and uniform obligations for States and PMSCs,” Mr. Rona noted.
The Working Group acknowledged the positive aspects of initiatives such as the Montreux Document and the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers, but cautioned that the former applied only in times of armed conflict, and the latter was a voluntary initiative that did not feature accountability or enforceable remedies for victims.
Mr. Rona also presented the Working Group’s findings on its visit to the Central African Republic last year (A/HRC/36/47/Add.1), urging vigilance against mercenaries and foreign fighters who had committed human rights violations during and since the armed conflicts of 2003 and 2013.
The group noted that most mercenaries and foreign fighters had come from neighbouring countries through porous borders, and posed an ongoing threat to national stability as they had joined numerous armed groups. Strong regional co-operation was critical to solve the problem, the group said.
The Working Group urged the Government and international partners to prioritize the protection of civilians and bring perpetrators to justice, including mercenaries and foreign fighters who had committed human rights violations on all sides of past conflicts.

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