Posts Tagged ‘UEA’

Vloggers selling their souls to boost image of Arab regimes

September 2, 2020

Mat Nashed in Ozy.com of 1 september 2020 addresses a major but often neglected issue: The Secret Weapon of Arab Regimes — Influencers and Vloggers. It is an excellent piece worth reading in full (see below). I have several times drawn attention to anti-human rights celebrity endorsements [e.g. see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/13/saudi-arabia-finds-that-celebrities-are-easier-to-buy-than-human-rights-ngos/] and sports washing [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-washing/]/

Read the rest of this entry »

UK criticised for selling spyware and wiretaps to 17 repressive regimes including Saudi Arabia and China

July 13, 2020

Jon Stone in the Independent of 13 july 2020 wrote about the UK Government being urged to explain £75m exports to countries rated ‘not free’. The British government is providing more than a dozen repressive regimes around the world with wiretaps, spyware and other telecommunications interception equipment they could use to spy on dissidents, public records show. Despite rules saying the UK should not export security goods to countries that might use them for internal repression, ministers have signed off more than £75m in such exports over the past five years to states rated “not free” by the NGO Freedom House.

The 17 countries include China, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as well as the United Arab Emirates, which was the biggest recipient of licences totalling £11.5m alone since 2015….One such beneficiary of the UK’s exports is Hong Kong, which had a £2m shipment approved last year despite ongoing repression of pro-democracy protests. The Philippines, where police extrajudicial killings are rampant, has also provided steady business for British firms hawking surveillance systems.,,

A government spokesperson said blandly : “The government takes its export responsibilities seriously and assesses all export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria. We will not issue any export licences where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria.” But Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty International UK’s programme director for military, security and police affairs, said the UK did not seem to be undertaking proper risk assessments when selling such equipment and said the government’s controls were becoming “notorious” for their “faulty decision-making”

With numerous human rights defenders arrested and jailed in countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey in the past five years, there’s a greater need than ever for the UK to be absolutely scrupulous in assessing the risk of UK telecoms technology being used unlawfully against human rights activists, journalists, and peaceful opposition figures.

“It’s just not clear that the UK is undertaking proper risk assessments when selling this equipment, and it’s not clear whether UK officials are making any effort to track how the equipment is used in one, two or three years’ time.

This week international trade secretary Liz Truss announced the UK would be resuming arms exports to Saudi Arabia, after a court had previously ordered that they were suspended. The government said it had reviewed claims that Saudi forces in Yemen had breached international humanitarian law and said any possible breaches were “isolated incidents” because they had happened in different places and different ways.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said the sale of the spying equipment raised “serious questions and concerns”.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/14/beyond-whatsapp-and-nso-how-human-rights-defenders-are-targeted-by-cyberattacks/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/uk-spyware-wiretaps-saudi-arabia-china-bahrain-uae-human-rights-a9613206.html

Ahmed Mansoor goes on second hunger strike after severe prison beating

October 1, 2019

Due to the closed conditions in the UAE and the lack of human rights organisations, it is not possible for GCHR to verify whether he remains on hunger strike. He was reported to be in very bad physical and mental shape earlier this month. It appears that Mansoor was badly beaten as a result of his protests about the poor conditions in which he has been held, and his ongoing detention, which violates international standards. He was beaten badly enough to leave a visible mark on his face, indicating he may have been tortured. He remains in solitary confinement in the isolation ward of Al-Sadr Prison in Abu Dhabi, where he is being held in a small cell with no bed or running water, which he is never allowed to leave. GCHR issued a special report on his medieval prison conditions.

On 7 May 2019, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and six other UN human rights experts condemned Mansoor’s conditions of detention, noting that “the poor conditions of his detention in the United Arab Emirates, including prolonged solitary confinement, may constitute torture.

Mansoor, who is also on the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, is the 2015 winner of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. He is serving a 10-year sentence handed down on 29 May 2018 for the “crime” of speaking out about grave human rights violations in the UAE. For more info, click here.

GCHR and partners worldwide are planning a week of action to help free Mansoor surrounding his 50thbirthday on 22 October 2019. More information will be published soon at https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofAhmedMansoor/ and on GCHR’s platforms.

GCHR is concerned that Ahmed Mansoor’s life is at risk and calls on:

  1. The UN mechanisms to act quickly to help protect and free Ahmed Mansoor;
  2. The UAE authorities to release Ahmed Mansoor immediately and unconditionally, put a stop to torture and reprisals against him; and allow international observers to visit him in prison and check on the conditions; and
  3. All supporters to tweet at UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister @HHShkMohd to #FreeAhmed.

I have earlier pointed to the cynical way in which the Emirates state tries to present a humanitarian face while continuing its severe repression of human rights defenders, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/14/uae-whitewashing-specialists-get-help-from-the-uk/

https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2215

Ahmed Mansoor goes on second hunger strike after severe prison beating

Happy New Year, but not for Ahmed Mansoor and Nabeel Rajab in the Gulf monarchies

January 2, 2019

First of all I wish my readers a happy 2019. Unfortunately this year augurs badly for two human rights defenders who have figured frequently in this blog: Ahmed Mansoor [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ahmed-mansoor/] and Nabeel Rajab [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/20/video-statement-of-troublemaker-nabeel-rajab-who-is-on-trial-today/]. Courts in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Monday upheld the convictions of these two prominent human rights defenders serving lengthy prison terms for expressing anti-government dissent on social media. They have no right to further appeal. On 4 January 2019 there UN joined the critics of these sentences.

Nabeel Rajab, Final Nominee MEA 2012

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/uae-and-bahrain-uphold-stiff-prison-sentences-for-human-rights-activists/2018/12/31/a31a3cf2-0d1b-11e9-8f0c-6f878a26288a_story.html?utm_term=.b3d062a3f670

http://icfuae.org.uk/news/uae-10-year-prison-sentence-upheld-ahmed-manoo

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/ahmed-mansoor

https://www.denverpost.com/2018/12/31/emirati-court-upholds-10-year-sentence-against-cu-boulder-grad-for-criticizing-government/

https://www.ifex.org/bahrain/2018/12/31/nabeel-condemn-sentence-upheld/

https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/01/1029832

BBC investigation on Arab States and import of cyber-surveillance tools

June 16, 2017

On 15 June 2017 the BBC came out with a special report on “How BAE sold cyber-surveillance tools to Arab states’A dancer tucks his Apple iPhone next to his traditional Omani dagger during a welcome ceremony in Muscat, Oman (5 November 2016).

A year-long investigation by BBC Arabic and a Danish newspaper [Dagbladet Information] has uncovered evidence that the UK defence giant BAE Systems has made large-scale sales across the Middle East of sophisticated surveillance technology, including to many repressive governments. These sales have also included decryption software which could be used against the UK and its allies. While the sales are legal, human rights campaigners and cyber-security experts have expressed serious concerns these powerful tools could be used to spy on millions of people and thwart any signs of dissent. The investigation began in the small Danish town of Norresundby, home to ETI, a company specialising in high-tech surveillance equipment. ETI developed a system called Evident, which enabled governments to conduct mass surveillance of their citizens’ communications. A former employee, speaking to the BBC anonymously, described how Evident worked. “You’d be able to intercept any internet traffic,” he said. “If you wanted to do a whole country, you could. You could pin-point people’s location based on cellular data. You could follow people around. They were quite far ahead with voice recognition. They were capable of decrypting stuff as well.”

 

Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

A video clip accompanying the article is to be found on the website of the BBC (see link below) and it features Ahmed Mansoor, the 2015 Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/21/ahmed-mansoor-mea-laureate-2015-arrested-in-middle-of-the-night-raid-in-emirates/]

One early customer of the new system was the Tunisian government. The BBC tracked down a former Tunisian intelligence official who operated Evident for the country’s veteran leader, President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. “ETI installed it and engineers came for training sessions,” he explained. “[It] works with keywords. You put in an opponent’s name and you will see all the sites, blogs, social networks related to that user.” The source says President Ben Ali used the system to crack down on opponents until his overthrow in January 2011, in the first popular uprising of the Arab Spring. As protests spread across the Arab world, social media became a key tool for organisers. Governments began shopping around for more sophisticated cyber-surveillance systems – opening up a lucrative new market for companies like BAE Systems. In 2011, BAE bought ETI and the company became part of BAE Systems Applied Intelligence. Over the next five years, BAE used its Danish subsidiary to supply Evident systems to many Middle Eastern countries with questionable human rights records (such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Morocco and Algeria).

 

“I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said more than 90% of the most active campaigners in 2011 have now vanished,” says Yahya Assiri, a former Saudi air force officer who fled the country after posting pro-democracy statements online.  “It used to be that ‘the walls have ears’, but now it’s ‘smartphones have ears,‘” says Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi women’s rights activist who also now lives abroad. “No country monitors its own people the way they do in the Gulf countries. They have the money, so they can buy advanced surveillance software.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/13/five-women-human-rights-defenders-from-the-middle-east/]

Manal al-Sharif
Manal al-Sharif says Gulf states have the money to buy advanced surveillance equipment‘Responsible trading’

….The BBC has obtained a 2015 email exchange between the British and Danish export authorities in which the British side clearly expresses concern about this capability with reference to an Evident sale to the United Arab Emirates. “We would refuse a licence to export this cryptanalysis software from the UK because of Criteria 5 concerns,” says the email. [“Criteria 5” refers to the national security of the UK and its allies.]…Despite British objections, the Danish authorities approved the Evident export…..

…….Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake is one of the few European politicians prepared to discuss concerns about surveillance technology exports. She says European countries will ultimately pay a price for the compromises now being made. “Each and every case where someone is silenced or ends up in prison with the help of EU-made technologies I think is unacceptable,” she told the BBC. “I think the fact that these companies are commercial players, developing these highly sophisticated technologies that could have a deep impact on our national security, on people’s lives, requires us to look again at what kind of restrictions maybe be needed, what kind of transparency and accountability is needed in this market before it turns against our own interest and our own principles.

Source: How BAE sold cyber-surveillance tools to Arab states – BBC News

https://twitter.com/hashtag/freeahmed

Ranking of countries on Human Rights: Global Network For Right and Development has a go at it

October 19, 2013

PLEASE NOTE THAT  the website is now suspended!!

Rankings of countries are popular at least with the media and public. That is also true for human rights. There is already the annual Freedom House survey as well as the UNDP development-oriented one.  Now, on 17 October, the Global Network for Rights and Development [GNRD] – created in 2008 and based in Stavanger, Norway – has published a new one, that tries to combine all social and economic indicators. It calls itself without much modesty “the Most Trustful and Complete International Human Rights Rank Indicator“, reflecting Live Data on the respect for human rights in 216 countries. The website states that it acts “in cooperation with various international organizations, governments and other NGOs to make the outcomes full and veritable. More than two thousand individuals all over the world are collecting and entering information constantly. The countries’ human rights rank indicator depends on a complex calculation of the respect for 21 interconnected human rights, including the evaluation of respect for human rights abroad, and the rights’ values. The new Indicator’s website offers to any person from any corner of the world an advantage to influence on the countries’ rank and significantly contribute to the protection of the human rights by registering a violation case in the online system….. Thus, we introduced today a real, free of bias, unique in its implementation International Human Rights Rank Indicator ihrri.com.

The problem is that verification of these claims is not possible without knowing more of the methodology, the data used and especially the ‘authorised organisations’ that are NOT listed. Theoretically the listing is an interesting notion but there must be a reason that most serious human rights NGOs have not done.

In the meantime governmental Gulfnews has already picked up on it: http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/society/uae-top-for-human-rights-in-arab-countries-1.1244390

via http://www.gnrd.net/vnews.php?id=297