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French Spyware executives are accused of aiding and abetting torture

Earlier this week, French authorities he implicated four former executives Nexa Technologies surveillance company, formerly known as Amesys, for complicity in torture and war crimes. Between 2007 and 2014, the company provided surveillance tools to authoritarian regimes in Libya and Egypt.

A coalition of the International Federation for Human Rights, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Research and other human rights groups has claimed that the repressive government of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has used tools to identify dissidents and activists. read emails and private messages and in some cases kidnapped, tortured or killed.

They are accused of selling to Nexa executives Internet surveillance equipment intercepted emails, texts and Facebook messages from journalists and dissidents. Executives supposedly sold Gadhafi’s government in Libya in 2007 and Egypt in 2014 are among the accused persons Former head of Amesys, Philippe Vannier, former president Stéphane Salies, and two current Nexa executives: President Olivier Bohbot and CEO Renaud Roques. Efforts to reach men through the Nexus were unsuccessful.

The Paris Judicial Court will be instructed by the judges of the unit against crimes against humanity and war crimes review the evidence to determine whether the four executives will be tried in the criminal court.

Such accusations are very rare. National security experts say international markets for the export of surveillance tools are largely unregulated. The perpetrators of such equipment often back down against the restrictions, as well as those intended to protect them from misuse. A The effort of European journalists in 2017 it was estimated that there were more than 230 surveillance companies headquartered in the EU.

“Overall, there is little that the authorities need to do to eliminate this toxic market,” says Marietje Schaake, international policy director at Stanford University’s Cyber ​​Policy Center and a former member of the European Parliament. While in Parliament, Schaak left new restrictions on exports of cyber surveillance technologies from Europe to countries with a history of human rights violations.

In 2016 it was presented and approved by EU parliamentarians in the first year, these new rules require companies to export licenses for certain “dual-use” technologies, such as surveillance, hacking, or data extraction software. Governments reviewing license applications need to assess the likelihood that human rights abuses will be used.

The accusation by French executives comes from pre-EU sales, but Schaak hopes to send a message that it is possible to enforce controls on cyber surveillance equipment. He says it is much easier to regulate sales before products are available in other countries. Often, Western countries are the ones most opposed to this idea.

“Companies shape these tools the way they are used to fight terrorism,” says Schaak. “It’s the states that are really responsible for torturing or kidnapping that are doing this, but companies are providing crucial tools to make that possible.”

Concerns over sales in Libya and Egypt are the “Arab Spring” of 2011 by journalists and privacy groups turn on alarms US and European companies furnished surveillance equipment to oppressive regimes.

Export controls in the US and the EU have evolved partly fashionable, security companies said indirect restrictions may penalize the investigation, anti-terrorism, or other legitimate uses of software and human rights groups emphasizing their potential in encouraging authoritarianism.

The US last October has updated its rules controlling the export of potentially dangerous software. The Department of Commerce says he will need human rights now when considered accepting or denying licenses for companies to make international sales. As in the EU, change is coming after several offers failed to review. But what that means is that it’s almost still in the air.

“You have to think about that with the increasing attention that human rights are paying in European and US circles and the increasing attention that human rights are being given in China and elsewhere,” says national security researcher Garrett Hinck. At Columbia University.

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