A top United Nations expert on Thursday urged law enforcement agencies around the world to ban 20 “modern-day torture tools,” such as spiked batons, electric shock bands and caged beds.
“They are as horrifying as the racks and thumbscrews favored by medieval torturers,” special rapporteur on torture Alice Edwards said at the UN. “They have no place in human rights-compliant law enforcement.”
On the list of “inherently cruel, inhuman” tools compiled by Edwards were “spiked batons that literally just rip through the skin,” knuckle cuffs and finger cuffs with serrated edges and electric shock bands worn by defendants in court.
Other torture devices include “caged beds so people are literally constrained in those places,” Edwards said, after presenting an annual report on torture to UN officials.
“We’re talking about tiger chairs and metal chairs where people cannot move and are held in stress positions for hours while they are being interrogated.”
Tools like gang chains, used to chain individuals to each other, “actually are remnants of slavery and servitude and they really conjure up terrible images,” the rapporteur added.
Edwards also singled out millimeter wave weapons used for crowd control. The technology is “designed to heat the uppermost layer of the skin in a crowded area so people will disperse on the basis of the unbearable pain, but they will not know where the pain is coming from,” she said.
Aside from immediately banning the torture tools, she urged countries to catalog the equipment used by their police and prison authorities and destroy them if found.
Edwards also called for an international treaty banning the trade in these tools, saying the industry manufacturing and promoting them “has tentacles that stretch across the globe.”
Edwards noted a “considerable spike” in allegations of torture over the past year, especially as part of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“My recent country visit to Ukraine confirmed the worst, that this pattern suggests torture is Russian state policy,” Edwards said.
Torture has also been observed in Haiti, Mali, Myanmar, Sudan and Yemen, she added.