Letter: Torture tools banned

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Fran Abrams' articles "For sale: the banned leg shackles used for torture" and "Best of British leg irons still on sale in America" (16 November) imply that the Government is not doing enough to stop British companies from selling equipment overseas that could be used for torture.

This is not so. We remain fully committed to preventing British companies from manufacturing, selling or procuring any equipment designed for torture. The Government introduced in 1997 a ban on the export and transhipment of all such equipment. This explicitly included leg irons.

The article mentions the use of British-made leg irons in Saudi Arabia. This incident dates from 1995, two years before this government came to power and introduced the ban. We are not aware of any leg irons exported since the ban and the most probable explanation of the leg irons seen by your journalist, as the article reports, is that they were old stock from the 1980s. Nevertheless, Foreign Office and Department of Trade and Industry officials will pursue the allegations with the company.

ROBIN COOK

Secretary of State

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

London SW1

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