The Tools of Torture

7 April 2015, 15:00 UTC | China, United Kingdom
Weighted leg cuffs on the Chengdu Jin'an Equipment’s stand at CPSE 2009 © Robin Ballantyne

The uncontrolled trade, manufacture and export of torture equipment is big business.

China is one of the major players in this grim industry, and the number of manufacturers has more than quadrupled in the last decade. One such company, China Xinxing Import/Export Corporation, stated in 2012 that its trade with Africa alone was worth more than $122 million.

This gruesome trade is thriving because the Chinese authorities have done nothing to stop the supply of torture tools, or to prevent policing equipment falling into the hands of known human rights abusers.

Modern torture devices

Many of the instruments openly marketed by such companies are specifically designed to inflict pain and suffering. They include:

  • Electric shock stun batons: These devices send extremely painful shocks to sensitive areas of the body including the genitals, throat, groin or ears – without long-lasting physical traces. We’ve found evidence of what appear to be Chinese-manufactured batons carried by police in Ghana, Senegal, Egypt and Madagascar.
  • Spiked batons: China is the only country known to manufacture these. They have reportedly been used by police in Cambodia and are exported to security forces in Nepal and Thailand.
  • Weighted leg cuffs, rigid restraint chairs and neck cuffs: These restraint devices can restrict breathing, blood circulation and nerve communication between the body and the brain. They are being sold to law enforcement agencies across the world, including agencies that persistently abuse human rights. 

UK: a serial offender

It isn’t just China that is helping to equip torturers around the world. The UK has repeatedly hosted international arms fairs where illegal equipment is advertised. Despite repeated promises to clamp down on this, the Government has never prosecuted any company for illegally peddling torture equipment at UK arms fairs.

“We want assurances that this is the end of the UK playing the dirty role of matchmaker between trader and torturer.”

Olly Sprague, Amnesty’s Arms Programme Director

The manufacture and trade in inhumane tools of torture is banned under international law. We want authorities to immediately place a ban on the production and trade in these cruel devices.

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