"It's possible to use anything for torture", says a US manufacturer of electro-shock riot shields, "but it's a little easier to use our devices."
That's the first line of a new Amnesty International report on the global trade in devices used in torture; the report is titled "The Pain Merchants." (Warning: big file, long document. I confess I haven't read it yet.) As this Yahoo News/OneWorld.net story notes, the U.S. isn't the worst offender, but
In 2002, U.S. exports of electro-shock weapons and restraints that can be used for torture amounted to some US$14.7 dollars and $4.4 million, respectively....
The U.S. Department of Commerce last year approved licenses for exports of discharge-type weapons, including electro-shock stun guns, shock batons, and similar devices, to 45 countries, among them a large number where the State Department has reported the use of torture against detainees, including Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Ghana, Honduras, India, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, and Venezuela.
More than 60 U.S. manufacturers sought licenses to export such equipment during 2002.
And torture devices may well slip through the not-particularly-rigid controls:
AIUSA said it feared that some manufacturers actually ignored the licensing requirement and shipped such equipment directly to the buyer. Indeed, a recent investigative report in U.S. News & World Report found that several small companies freely advertise at various Internet Web states how to circumvent exports rules for stun guns by, for example, shipping parts separately.
I'll give credit to Representative Henry Hyde, a guy I'm usually not inclined to praise, for working (along with Congressman Tom Lantos) "on legislation that places restrictions on crime-control exports to foreign governments known to use torture," according to the OneWorld story.