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Ending Trade in the Tools of Torture

On the UN's International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the best way to honor victims and survivors is to take real action to end the practice globally. To that end, the world needs binding global rules prohibiting trade in instruments whose sole purpose is to inflict pain and suffering on humans.

BRUSSELS – There is no scenario where torture is acceptable or appropriate. Any practice that destroys its victims’ bodies and minds in order to control their will is an affront to the dignity of human beings. And research indicates that torture is, at best, an ineffective means of gathering intelligence; at worst, it can elicit false information, making it counter-productive.

Though torture is strictly forbidden under international law, it remains widespread. On the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, commemorated on June 26, the best way to honor victims and survivors is to take real action to end – or, at least, impede – the practice globally. A good place to start is through international trade.

Though many countries have committed in recent decades to abolishing capital punishment and inhumane treatment and practices, the instruments of torture – such as finger screws, thumb cuffs, leg irons, restraint chairs, spiked batons, and whips embedded with barbs, hooks, or spikes – are still being traded freely across borders. These tools have no purpose beyond inflicting pain and suffering on human beings, yet they continue to cross borders just like any other good.

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