AMNESTY International campaigners and an MEP have succeeded in forcing European Union chiefs to take the first steps to end conformity branding on torture items.

The charity's Darlington branch has been working with North-East MEP, Stephen Hughes, to lobby for CE marks to be taken off the items which are being sold to developing worlds.

Mr Hughes said the CE marks were a "tacit approval" of the items, such as electro-shock devices, which are used for such purposes as crowd control.

And the efforts have resulted in a letter to the MEP from European Commission president Romano Prodi.

In the letter, he says: "The services of the Commission are currently preparing a proposal for a council regulation concerning trade in equipment which may be used for torture or for cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

The aim of this regulation is to lay down community rules prohibiting the export, sale and transfer to third world countries, and the import and purchase from third world countries of such equipment.

Mr Hughes said: "What a fantastic present for people being abused in the developing world. Through our joint effort, we will be able to bring the hope that these items will no longer be exported from nor imported to Europe in the very near future."