POLICY BRIEF 84 | JUNE 2016 Manufacturing torture? South Africa’s trade in electric shock equipment Omega Research Foundation Summary Recommendations 1 The trade in law-enforcement equipment that has no practical purpose other than for the purpose of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment should be prohibited. 2 Body-worn electric shock devices (e.g. stun belts) have no legitimate law enforcement purpose and should be banned for import and export. 3 Hand-held direct contact electric shock devices designed for law enforcement (e.g. stun shields and stun batons) are prone to abuse and should be banned for import and export. 4 Wired projectile electric shock weapons should be regulated in the same way as firearms. 5 A targeted end-use control mechanism for policing and security equipment would help prevent the transfer of weapons that could contribute to internal repression. In South Africa, the trade in certain kinds of firearms and military equipment is controlled for reasons of safety and security. However, there is a gap in legislation when it comes to the control of law enforcement equipment that can facilitate torture and ill treatment. This brief examines electric shock devices as an example of security equipment that needs stronger tradecontrol measures. The brief outlines concerns over the use of electric shock equipment, and discusses the manufacture of these items in South Africa and their trade with other countries. It also looks at trade controls currently used elsewhere, and provides recommendations for changes in the control measures surrounding these products in South Africa. VARIOUS TYPES OF ELECTRIC shock devices are authorised for use by South African law enforcement officials, including stun belts, stun shields, stun batons and stun guns. The perception of these devices as less-lethal alternatives to firearms means that there are weaker controls on their use and trade. However, the use of electric shock devices by law enforcement officials has been associated with serious abuses, resulting in torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, injury and, in some cases, death. Although there are no trade controls for these devices in South Africa, the use of certain electric shock equipment has been internationally condemned by UN and European torture prevention monitors. The European Commission has imposed an import and export ban on body-worn electric shock equipment, and subjects other types of electric shock equipment to trade restrictions. The prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is a norm of customary international law and, as such, is binding on all states. South Africa has ratified the 1987 UN Convention against Torture and passed its own legislation aimed at combating and preventing torture. Yet the use of body-worn electric shock weapons is in clear breach of these norms, while other electric shock devices are also prone to abuse.

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