March 3, 2015 - Updated on January 20, 2016

UK rebukes producer of surveillance software

British-German surveillance technology provider Gamma International infringed on its human rights obligations with products such as “state trojan” FinFischer. This was confirmed by the United Kingdom’s OECD National Contact Point (NCP) on Thursday in the final assessment of a complaint submitted by human rights groups. The NCP calls on Gamma – explicitly including other companies affiliated with the corporation – to implement effective human rights standards.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain Watch, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Privacy International and Reporters Without Borders in 2013 submitted a complaint at the NCP in London against Gamma, and a parallel complaint at the German NCP against Munich-based surveillance company Trovicor GmbH. The non-governmental organizations accuse the companies of sharing a responsibility for arrests, imprisonments and torture of opposition members, journalists and dissidents in the Arab Gulf state of Bahrain by supplying surveillance technology and technical support. “The final statement of the British OECD National Contact Point confirms our complaint,” said Christian Mihr, executive director of Reporters Without Borders Germany. “At the same time the fight for substantial restrictions of exports of surveillance technology to authoritarian states must continue.” ECCHR deputy legal director Miriam Saage-Maaß added: “The decision of the British NCP is of fundamental importance! The German Gamma affiliate FinFisher Labs in Munich must also comply with it.” “The OECD report unfortunately underlines the lack of cooperation by certain companies that export surveillance technology, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. If they are unable to behave reasonably of their own accord, it is up to governments and legislators to force them to do so.” The British OECD NCP criticized that Gamma did not put in place a due diligence process and did not commit to any binding standards for the observance of human rights. Moreover, the company did not cooperate with the NCP to the necessary extent. In spite of overwhelming publicly accessible evidence, Gamma refused to provide information on the sale of FinFisher technology to Bahrain. The NCP invokes that it is not equipped with investigatory powers of its own, and therefore could not confirm this specific accusation. The German NCP, which is tied to the Federal Ministry of Economy, rejected the complaint against Trovicor in December 2013, deciding that it could “only conduct a further examination of the general risk management of Trovicor.” It considered the evidence regarding other topics of the complaint as not substantial enough to warrant further scrutiny. “The fact that the National Contact Points in Germany and in the United Kingdom diverged in their assessments of the complaints is once again evidence of the failings in the German complaint procedure,” said Miriam Saage-Maaß. “The German NCP must be restructured to be more independent – for example by placing it, as does the UK, under the supervision of a board that appoints civil society representatives as well.” ---- Press contacts: Reporters Without Borders Germany / Silke Ballweg and Christoph Dreyer / / / T: +49 (0)30 60 98 95 33-55 European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights / Anabel Bermejo (Media & Communication) / / T: +49 (0)30 6981 9707 / Mob: +49 (0)172 587 00 87