Guidance

Export controls: torture goods

Exporting goods controlled under the UK Torture Regulation (including licensing of drugs used in execution by lethal injection).

This guidance will continue to apply until 31 December 2020. Read more information on the transition period.

Introduction

The UK legal basis for controls on torture goods is Regulation (EC) No. 2019/125 (the Torture Regulation).

This guide explains which goods are prohibited from export and which are controlled for export under the regulation.

Goods controlled by torture legislation include drugs used in executions by lethal injection. The export of the drug propofol to the United States is also controlled.

Legislation

Regulation (EU) 2019/125 prohibits and regulates trade in equipment and products that could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

This Regulation came into force in February 2019 and codified the previous Regulation (EC) No 1236/2005 and its amendments.

Associated secondary legislation

The powers concerning licensing, enforcement and penalties are all covered in the Export Control Order 2008 (as amended).

You should get your own legal advice where necessary and to make sure that you are referring to the latest version of the legislation.

How the regulations affect exporters

Regulating trade in certain kinds of equipment

The regulation divides the items into three categories:

  • goods which have no practical use other than for the purposes of capital punishment, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • goods that have legitimate law enforcement applications but could be used for the purpose of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • goods that could be used for the purpose of capital punishment

The export is prohibited for the first category of goods, except in a few specific circumstances.

The other two categories cover items which may be authorised, but you will need an export licence.

Goods that are prohibited

Annex II of the Regulation lists goods which have no practical use other than for the purposes of capital punishment, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Any export or import of goods listed in Annex II of the Regulation is prohibited. The supply of technical assistance in connection with these goods is also prohibited. These goods include:

  • gallows and guillotines
  • electric chairs for the purpose of execution of human beings
  • airtight vaults
  • automatic drug injection systems
  • electric shock devices, thumb-cuffs, finger-cuffs, thumbscrews and finger-screws
  • bar fetters, leg restraints and gang chains
  • cuffs for restraining human beings
  • restraint chairs
  • shackle boards and shackle beds
  • cage beds
  • net beds
  • batons or truncheons with metal spikes
  • whips with multiple lashes or fitted with barbs, hooks or spikes

An exemption from this export prohibition can only be made if the goods are to be displayed in a public exhibition in a museum in view of their historic significance. If this exemption applies, you will need an export authorisation, a licence, from the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Goods that require an export authorisation

You will need a licence from DIT for the goods listed in Annex III and IV of the Regulation. The supply of brokering services and the supply of technical assistance in respect of the goods listed in Annex III or in Annex IV to this Regulation is also subject to prior authorisation.

Annex III of the Regulation lists goods that could be used for the purpose of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, but also have legitimate applications, for example:

  • shackles and gang-chains, certain individual cuffs or rings
  • spit hoods
  • portable electric shock devices
  • devices for the purpose of riot control or self-protection by the administration or dissemination of an incapacitating chemical
  • certain pepper sprays

For the purpose of this Regulation only, you don’t need an export licence for goods listed in Annex III when:

  • the goods only pass through the customs territory of the EU, namely those which are not assigned a customs approved treatment or use other than the external transit procedure under Article 226 of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013, including storage of non-Union goods in a free zone

  • the export is to territories of member states which are both listed in Annex VI to the Regulation, and are not part of the customs territory of the EU, provided that the goods will be used by an authority in charge of law enforcement in both the country or territory of destination and the metropolitan part of the member state to which that territory belongs
  • the export is to third countries, provided that the goods will be used by the military or civil personnel of a member state of the EU, if they are taking part in an EU or UN peace-keeping or crisis management operation in the third country concerned, or in an operation based on agreements between member states and the third countries in the field of defence

Annex IV of the Regulation lists goods that could be used for the purpose of capital punishment, but also have legitimate medical applications.

For the purpose of this Regulation only, an export authorisation for goods listed in Annex IV is not required where the goods only pass through the customs territory of the EU, namely those which are not assigned a customs approved treatment or use other than the external transit procedure under Article 226 of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013, including storage of non-Union goods in a free zone.

You can apply for an export licence using our online licensing system.

Export controls in relation to other regulatory controls for drugs

As an exporter you should be aware that other regulatory controls applying to the supply or export of these drugs are included under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (as administered by the Home Office).

It is an exporter’s responsibility to ensure that all regulatory requirements are complied with and to apply for licences from all individual relevant regulatory authorities as necessary.

Additional UK controls

The UK controls the export of the drugs pancuronium bromide and propofol to the United States.

Pancuronium bromide and propofol are included on the list of human and veterinary medicinal products that are prohibited for export to the USA when they are in a form suitable for injection, or for preparation of an injection.

Any person seeking to export these drugs from the UK to the US requires an export licence issued by DIT. We will refuse a licence if the stated end use is execution or if we consider that there is an unacceptable risk that the drug will be diverted for use in execution. The control covers both direct and indirect export of products from the UK to the US. The indirect control applies when the initial destination is not the US but the exporter knows that the goods will be re-exported and that the ultimate destination is the US.

Apply for an export licence

Applying for an export licence for drugs which could be used for execution purposes

You should:

Open General Licence (GEA 2019/125)

Article 20 of Regulation (EU) 2019/125 permits a Union General Export Authorisation to be used which is the European equivalent of the national system of Open General Licences (OGLs) issued under UK export control law and are designed to licence dual-use exports.

This UGEA is set out in Annex V of the Regulation (EU) 2019/125.

Once you have determined that you can use this GEA, you must register for GEA 2019/125 by using our online licensing system. You must register to use the licence.

Standard Individual Export Licence

Under the GEA 2019/125 you cannot export to:

  • American Samoa
  • People’s Republic of China
  • Guatemala
  • Guam
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Thailand
  • Taiwan
  • United States Minor Outlying Islands
  • United States of America
  • Virgin Islands, United States
  • Vietnam

If you intend to export to a destination which is not permitted under the GEA 2019/125 you will need to apply for a Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL). You also need to apply for a SIEL when the export is to a destination not prohibited but you know that the ultimate destination is one of those listed.

You need to apply for a Standard Individual Export Licence using our online licensing system.

The completed application should be supported by an end-user undertaking (EUU), which should be from the end-user (signed by a director or company secretary you are exporting to) on their headed notepaper explaining:

  • from whom the goods have been ordered (the UK exporter)
  • to where and whom the goods are to be consigned
  • description and quantity of goods ordered
  • for what end-use the goods are intended and by whom
  • that the goods are not intended for re-export or re-transfer from the end-use destination
  • that the goods are not intended for use in carrying out of execution by lethal injection and will not be re-exported or otherwise sold or transferred if it is known or suspected they are or are likely to be used for such purposes.

All applications for a SIEL will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. A licence will not be granted if we have reasonable grounds to believe that the goods might be used for torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

If you are granted a licence, you will be subject to compliance audits conducted by the ECJU Compliance Unit.

Find out more about compliance visits.

Further information

ECJU helpline

Contact the helpline for general queries about strategic export licensing.

Export Control Joint Unit
2nd floor 
3 Whitehall Place
London
SW1A 2AW

Email: exportcontrol.help@trade.gov.uk

Telephone: 020 7215 4594

Home Office Drugs Licensing and Compliance Unit

Telephone: 020 7035 6330 (commercial applicants) or 020 7035 6300 (personal applicants)

Published 15 August 2012
Last updated 10 October 2019 + show all updates
  1. We have updated this page to reflect the current legislation.

  2. Contact and other details for Open Individual Export Licence applications updated.

  3. First published.