Open Letter to EU Urging Halt of Surveillance Tools Export to Authoritarian Countries, Including Bahrain

2017-07-18 - 6:14 ص

Bahrain Mirror: A group of international NGOs sent an open letter to the European Union (EU) member states and its institutions, urging them to stop the export of surveillance equipment to authoritarian countries.

The letter issued (July 11, 2017) on the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) website stated, "Following the alarming evidence that EU-made electronic surveillance equipment is still being exported to authoritarian countries around the world, we strongly urge all EU member states and institutions to respect their human rights obligations and call on them to prioritize long overdue EU reforms."

Among the NGOs signatory to the letter were BRD, Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders, Gulf Center or Human Rights, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Access Now, Bahrain Watch, and others.

"As the European Commission has since proposed reforms to the current system specifically aimed "to prevent human rights violations associated with certain cyber-surveillance technologies", we urge member states to refrain from any further delays in the process and to ensure that states throughout the European Union prevent surveillance exports that pose risks to human rights," the letter stated.

The NGO believed in their letter that "the export of electronic surveillance equipment to agencies involved in human rights abuses and to countries lacking sufficient legal frameworks to protect privacy poses a serious risk to the EU's interests in human rights, democratization, and rule of law."

The international organizations noted, "In Macedonia (...) there have been reportedly some 20,000 people subject to wiretapping over several years, including activists, members of the judiciary, opposition members, and diplomats." It believed that this effectively "undermines many EU initiatives by allowing the former ruling party direct access to telecommunications surveillance systems."

"Recently, reports have shown how authorities in Mexico , the United Arab Emirates , and Bahrain have used surveillance powers nominally targeting criminals and terrorists against human rights defenders, activists, lawyers, and others, it further reported.

As a result, the NGOs urged that the export control framework be updated, and recommended: human rights protections be strengthened and have definitive impact, all relevant surveillance technology be covered, greater transparency and reporting is made mandatory, and the need for adequate and uniform assessment criteria.



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