A Norm in the Making: Banning the Global Trade in Tools of Torture

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High-level Meeting of the Alliance for Torture-free Trade, the UN, New York (24 September 2018)

The highlight of the recently concluded 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly was the first Ministerial Meeting of the Global Alliance for Torture-Free Trade, held on 24 September 2018.

The Global Alliance was launched in September last year, under the leadership of Argentina, the EU, and Mongolia. What brought this diverse group of countries together was the noble cause of banning the trade in goods used for torture and capital punishment. Their first Ministerial Meeting was held a year after they proclaimed their determination to end international trade in instruments of torture and capital punishment.

During this meeting, which was opened by Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Alliance welcomed its new members. Then, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström gave an account of the progress made since the formation of the Alliance. The meeting also expressed the commitment of now more than 60 member states to introduce a draft resolution before the UN General Assembly with a view to adopt a legally binding instrument.

I had the rare privilege to participate in this meeting alongside Kumi Naidoo from Amnesty International, Michael Crowley from Omega Research Foundation, and Thórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir, chairperson of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. As I articulated during our panel, for a scholar of human rights, this Alliance is good news. It is puzzling that while torture is strongly prohibited, there are no regulations regarding the tools of torture and capital punishment at the international level.

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