Surveillance technologies "Made in Europe": Regulation needed to prevent human rights abuses

On the eve of the Wassenaar December Plenary, where the 41 Governments that compose the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies will be meeting, and as thousands gather in Geneva for the opening of the UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights, FIDH releases a position paper : "Surveillance Technologies « Made in Europe » : Regulation Needed to Prevent Human Rights Abuses", calling on the EU and the international community to effectively regulate the export of surveillance technologies used by repressive regimes to commit human rights violations.

The Amesys case and other recent judicial proceedings and media coverage of alleged implication of ICT companies in the selling of surveillance technology to authoritarian regimes have recently raised concerns over the growing global trend of the use by governments of sophisticated technological equipment and programmes to systematically persecute human rights defenders, dissidents, and political opponents. Such surveillance tools are being used as means of repression in many countries, such as Bahrain, Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco, Syria and Turkmenistan.

They mentioned things only me and my friends knew about. I believe they got personal messages - J. 40 years old, arrested on 10 February 2011 and tortured for 10 days in Benghazi (Libya)

FIDH’s position paper builds on FIDH’s work before French courts representing victims’ of abuses allegedly committed with the help of companies selling surveillance technologies and on discussions held during an expert seminar organised by FIDH in Brussels in April 2014. The paper maps some of the different types of surveillance and censorship technologies being sold to repressive regimes, looks at the current EU legal and policy frameworks and highlights how these are insufficient to ensure that such trade of ICT technologies does not contribute to human rights abuses.

FIDH calls on the EU and the international community to adopt a series of recommendations to ensure appropriate regulation of the sale and export of surveillance technologies. Recommendations particularly focus on EU member States as “home States” of European ICT companies exporting surveillance technology, and include recommendations to regulate these companies’ activities, to restrict the trade of surveillance technologies and to ensure effective access to justice for victims.



FIDH is a member of the Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports (CAUSE), along with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Privacy International, Reporters Without Borders, the Open Technology Institute and Digitale Gesellschaft. Find out more at

Surveillance Technologies Made in Europe

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