IUNW Calls on Special Rapporteur to Support HR defenders in UAE, KSA
International United Nations Watch has written to United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst drawing his attention to human rights violations and violations of the rights to privacy of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. IUNW recently documenting these violations in a report released.
The violations cited were accomplished using apps that had been deliberately designed to enable government intelligence operatives to track and harvest information and data about human rights activists, their work and their whereabouts and, , in many instances, to target and harm them.
One example of this kind of intrusive “spyware” is ToTok, which, according to the New York Times, was developed in the UAE specifically to spy on and collect information about possible government foes, including their photos, videos, contact numbers and locations. ToTok was removed from the App Store as soon as the danger it posed to people’s privacy became known.
In a similar context, Saudi Arabia purchased Israeli software to spy on human rights foes critical of the Saudi government.
An Israeli court heard a suit filed against the Israeli company NSO Spyware Ltd, which had reportedly helped Saudi Arabia spy on Jamal Khashogji. The judge who opted to go ahead with the trial, in the end ordered NSO to pay the plaintiff Omar Abdilaziz’s legal fees.
IUNW has called on the UN, but especially the UNHRC through Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, to question the two governments about their involvement in surveillance activities which threaten people’s right to privacy, in particular human rights activists whose lives are at risk because of the invasiveness of the bogus apps.
“It is up to the UN to ensure that human rights defenders are accorded full protection, including the right to privacy given that so many of them are subject to threats by governments with little regard for the concept of human rights,” the IUNW letter concludes.
International United Nations Watch