A Salisbury based firm, Gamma TSE, has been accused of supplying spyware to enable Bahraini activists to be arrested
UPDATE 15 March 17
Extract from a recent University of Toronto report:
[…] Far from using this spyware solely to track what might be considered legitimate targets, these countries and their shadowy agencies have repeatedly used them to get inside the computers of human rights activists, journalists, opposition politicians, and even health advocates supporting a soda tax in Mexico. Some of the victims of these campaigns have found themselves arrested and tortured. Leaked emails from certain companies reveal that, despite public assurances by executives, the vendors seem cavalier about these type of abuses, have few internal checks in place to prevent them, and, indeed, knowingly court the clandestine agencies responsible for such abuses. Despite these alarming incidents, however, the dynamics of and participants in the market at large remain opaque.
While arguments rage in the USA concerning the alleged interference by Russia of the
presidential elections, a secretive Salisbury based firm, Gamma TSE, has been accused by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development of supplying software called FinFisher or FinSpy to the authorities in Bahrain and elsewhere. This software enables intelligence agencies to insert Trojan software into computers and mobile phones. This in turn enables people critical of the regime to be tracked and if necessary arrested by the security services. The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab is documenting the widespread use of this spying software.
Privacy International, Bahrain Watch, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Reporters Without Borders lodged a complaint with the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights. They allege that the equipment is used by repressive regimes to harass and target dissidents, politicians and human rights activists.
Our involvement with repressive states – especially those in the Gulf – is well-known and Theresa May recently visited Bahrain to promote business interests in the kingdom. As we have noted many times before, there seems little interest in the consequences of our arms and security companies activities on the ordinary people who live in those countries, the death and destruction in Yemen being particularly awful.
Gamma is again in the news today (9 January 2017, p13) in a Times article entitled ‘No 10 linked to spyware in human rights row’ which reveals that despite the criticism by the OECD, they have been invited to the Home Office sponsored International Security and Policing exhibition in London. Amnesty reports show that the human rights situation in Bahrain is very poor with reports of torture and other forms of abuse:
[it] details dozens of cases of detainees being beaten, deprived of sleep and adequate food, burned with cigarettes, sexually assaulted, subjected to electric shocks and burned with an iron. One was raped by having a plastic pipe inserted into his anus.
It said the report showed torture, arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force against peaceful activists and government critics remained widespread in Bahrain.
The OECD report was not conclusive about Gamma as it was a ‘reluctant participant in the proceedings refusing to productively engage in a September 2013 mediation and employed stalling efforts.’
Privacy International say:
Gamma has proven itself to be and irresponsible corporate actor that is indifferent to the human rights impacts of its activities.
The Amnesty report also says:
The government [of Bahrain] continued to curtail freedoms of expression, association and assembly and cracked down further on online and other dissent. Opposition leaders remained imprisoned; some were prisoners of conscience. Torture and other ill-treatment remained common. Scores were sentenced to long prison terms after unfair trials. Authorities stripped at least 208 people of their Bahraini nationality. Eight people were sentenced to death; there were no executions.
A firm helping regimes with a record of mistreating its citizens and regularly using torture, is based in the village of Porton, near Salisbury, Wiltshire.