International Affairs

Kenya:U.S.-Kenya Deal to Boost Over 2,000 Small Companies - Sun, 17 Dec 2017
[Nation] A partnership between Kenya and the US promises to see over 2,0000 small businesses in Nairobi, Mombasa and Vihiga counties venture into the expansive American market by December next year.

South Africa:Could Free Education Cost SA the National Health Insurance? - Sun, 17 Dec 2017
[Bhekisisa] Saturday's surprise announcement could be the latest blow to the country's bid for better healthcare.

Nigeria:Ghost Companies Lift U.S.$3.5 Billion Crude Oil - Sun, 17 Dec 2017
[Daily Trust] Some indigenous companies not registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) have lifted Nigerian crude oil grades valued at U.S.$3.5 billion (about N1.1 trillion) in the last 10 months, an investigation by Daily Trust on Sunday has shown.

Zimbabwe:Chamisa Scoffs At Zanu-PF Sanctions Propaganda - Sun, 17 Dec 2017
[Zimbabwe Standard] MDC-T deputy president, Nelson Chamisa has dismissed as Zanu PF propaganda reports that the MDC Alliance was in the United States to beg for an extension of sanctions, saying as the alternative and government in waiting, they had the right to start cultivating relations with the international community.

Zimbabwe:Why Grace's School Must Be Converted Into a Tech Hub - Sun, 17 Dec 2017
[Zimbabwe Standard] Last Tuesday as I was driving along the A11 Mazowe Road, I was surprised to see the developments that had taken place along the way. I had not been on Mazowe Road for 17 years so the National Defence College and the Amai Mugabe School were new, remarkable and refreshing sightings for me. I had heard about them but seeing is a different matter altogether.

Adrift in Afghanistan - Wed, 03 May 2017

As the war in Afghanistan drifts back into the public spotlight, Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon argues that five “urgent questions must be answered about the near- and long-term future of the fight.” The United States must clarify its definition of stability and success in Afghanistan, determine whether the Taliban, ISIS, or both is the enemy, discuss how many troops are needed on the ground, and create plans for stemming the loss of life among Afghan forces and for bringing an end to the war.

Making Chile Great Again - Wed, 03 May 2017

Since its return to democracy in 1990, Chile has been heralded as Latin America’s exception, writes Shannon O’Neil. But in the present, “this tranquillity has come to an end, and the economic and social consensus of the postauthoritarian years has crumbled.”

A Vision of Trump at War - Wed, 22 Mar 2017

Writing in Foreign Affairs, Philip Gordon offers a vision of howPresident Trump could stumble—through bluster, wishful thinking, and miscalculation—into war with Iran, China, and North Korea.

World Order 2.0 - Wed, 15 Feb 2017

There is growing tension between President Trump’s America First doctrine and building order in an interconnected world, writes CFR President Richard N. Haass.

Egypt’s Nightmare - Mon, 13 Feb 2017

The single-minded pursuit of the Muslim Brotherhood has become the guiding principle of Egypt’s foreign and domestic policies, writes CFR’s Steven A. Cook. These policies, however, are proving counterproductive and destabilizing to the lives of Egyptians as well as Gazans, Libyans, and Syrians.

Issue Guide: Fidel Castro - Sat, 26 Nov 2016

Fidel Castro, who died on November 25, was one of the most prominent figures of the Cold War and an adversary of ten consecutive U.S. presidential administrations. This reading list considers the legacy of his nearly fifty years in power, including the Cuban Missle Crisis, the U.S. economic embargo, and the years following the Cold War.

Iran Nuclear Deal’s ‘Implementation Day’ - Sun, 17 Jan 2016

The confirmation by UN monitors that Iran has complied with the deal to dismantle large parts of its nuclear program lifts major sanctions and ushers in a new era for the Middle East. This issue guide offers analysis and background.

Issue Guide: 2016 State of the Union Address - Mon, 11 Jan 2016

Catch up on the issues President Obama will focus on in his final year with this State of the Union reading list.

Issue Guide: Iran Nuclear Talks - Fri, 26 Jun 2015

As the deadline looms for the completion of a deal to limit Iran's nuclear program, this issue guide provides background on the diplomatic progress and stumbling blocks, and possible consequences of an agreement.

Issue Guide: Greece's Debt Crisis - Mon, 15 Jun 2015

Five years after the onset of its sovereign debt crisis, Greece once again finds itself on the precipice of default and a departure from the nineteen-member eurozone. This reading list provides expert background and analysis of the crisis.

Latin America in 2017: the year of carrying on - Fri, 15 Dec 2017
A round-up of this year’s standout stories, from violence and turmoil to tales of hope

Brazil’s low interest rates could prove shortlived - Fri, 08 Dec 2017
It is premature for the government of Michel Temer to celebrate

Brazilian shoppers help buoy nascent recovery - Tue, 28 Nov 2017
As recession ends, consumers start spending for Christmas

Argentina in despair over its lost submarine - Fri, 24 Nov 2017
Decrepitude of the country’s naval fleet has drawn understandable anger

Surge in cargo theft hits the bottom line in Rio de Janeiro - Wed, 22 Nov 2017
Rising crime in the city’s slums is spilling over in to politics and the economy

Pensions: Automatic saving to start at 18 under new plans - Sun, 17 Dec 2017
An extra 900,000 young people could automatically save into a workplace pension under the plans.

Former PM takes on UK-China investment role - Sat, 16 Dec 2017
David Cameron is to lead a £750m fund to improve links between Britain and China, the government says.

Defence budget: New equipment at risk over MoD savings 'doubts' - Sun, 17 Dec 2017
MPs warn plans for new military equipment - including warships and jets - could be at risk.

Sky News faces uncertain future after Disney-Fox deal - Fri, 15 Dec 2017
Will Disney want to keep pumping money into a loss-making news channel after the Fox deal?

Cash controversy: The High Streets with too many ATMs - Fri, 15 Dec 2017
The cash machine industry and the network are at loggerheads over closure plans.

France Should Face up to Azerbaijan’s Rights Record - Tuesday, March 1

In Paris this week on an official visit, Azerbaijan’s autocratic President Ilham Aliyev has already scored one photo op. Anyone reading yesterday’s Azeri media could see dozens of photos of Aliyev posing with leaders of top French companies, including Airbus, Suez, and Credit Agricole.

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev (L) shakes hands with his French counterpart Francois Hollande as they visit a local French school under construction in Baku, May 11, 2014.

© 2014 Reuters

Today, President Hollande will receive President Aliyev and host an official dinner at Palais de l’Elysee. Again, Parisian photo ops abound. But amid the flashing cameras, one has to wonder where Azerbaijan’s repression of critics and the jailing of opponents fits in the new relationship between Paris and Baku?

In the past few years, Azerbaijani authorities have aggressively gone after the country’s once vibrant civil society, jailing dozens of activists, journalists, and political opponents. It also adopted draconian legislation making it virtually impossible for independent non-governmental organizations to operate.

One year ago, as Azerbaijan’s economy started to suffer from falling oil prices, several of those detained on political grounds were released. That was an important first step, but hopes for progress were short-lived.

Many of those released face travel bans or obstacles to their activities. Dozens are still locked up on political grounds, including opposition activist Ilgar Mammadov, despite repeated calls by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe for his immediate release. And more activists have been thrown in jail. Recently, one of the country’s most popular journalists and bloggers, Mehman Huseynov, was sentenced to two years in prison for allegedly defaming the police, in response to his brave public denouncement of the police abuses he suffered.

When visiting Paris, Brussels, or other European capitals, President Aliyev hopes to get more business opportunities and investment in Azerbaijan. But he prefers to ignore that the people of Azerbaijan want human rights protections, transparency, and good governance. Those standing up for these values are routinely exposed to attacks and harassment.

Yet what more clear message that Azerbaijan’s crackdown cannot be ignored by potential investors than last week’s decision by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international coalition promoting better governance of resource-rich countries, to suspend Azerbaijan – precisely because of its actions against civil society.

President Hollande should reject a narrative that only finance and economy matter in Azerbaijan. Human rights should be as central to France’s foreign policy as other topics.

Hollande should publicly call for the release of Ilgar Mammadov and all those detained in retaliation for their activism and criticism. A failure to explicitly support human rights principles would be the worst message to those unjustly waiting behind bars.

Arvind Ganesan - Monday, May 25,

Arvind Ganesan is the director of Human Rights Watch’s Business and Human Rights Division. He leads the organization’s work to expose human rights abuses linked to business and other economic activity, hold institutions accountable, and develop standards to prevent future abuses. This work has included research and advocacy on awide range of issues includingthe extractive industries; public and private security providers; international financial institutions; freedom of expression and information through the internet; labor rights; supply chain monitoring and due diligence regimes; corruption; sanctions; and predatory practices against the poor. Ganesan’s work has covered countries such as Angola, Azerbaijan, Burma, China, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, India, Indonesia, the United States, and Nigeria. His recent research has focused on predatory lending practices and governance issues on Native American reservations in the United States. He has written numerous reports, op-eds, and other articles and is widely cited by the media.

Ganesan has also worked to develop industry standards to ensure companies and other institutions respect human rights. He is a founder of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights for the oil, gas, and mining industries and is a founding member of the Global Network Initiative (GNI) for the internet and telecommunications industries, where he also serves on the board. Ganesan has helped to develop standards for international financial institutions such as the World Bank, and regularly engages governments in an effort to develop mandatory rules or strengthen existing standards such as the Kimberley Process. He serves on the board of EGJustice, a nongovernmental organization that promotes good governance in Equatorial Guinea, and is a member of the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR)’s steering committee.

Before joining Human Rights Watch, Ganesan worked as a medical researcher. He attended the University of Oklahoma.

Human Rights Watch Submission to the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on Child Labor and Modern Slavery - Thursday, Decemb


Human Rights Watch welcomes the opportunity to provide input to the Subcommittee on International Human Rights for their study on child and forced labor in supply chains. We appreciate the Canadian government’s recognition of child and forced labor in supply chains as a serious issue meriting further study and its exploration of legislative options to combat this problem. According to the International Labour Organization there are approximately 10 million in child slavery and nearly 152 million in child labor.[1] An estimated 40 million people around the world are effectively held in modern slavery conditions, including forced labor, debt bondage, and forced marriage.[2] Forced labor in supply chains is used to provide goods and services to markets around the world, though these chains are often hidden from view and shielded from accountability. It is incumbent upon governments across the globe to commit to combatting all forms of child labor and modern slavery found throughout supply chains and operations.

Some governments have taken steps to address modern slavery or other human rights abuses in supply chains. Some of the existing models include the UK Modern Slavery Act, the French “Duty of Vigilance” law, and the transparency act in California. The Netherlands and Australia have also been considering legislation. Human Rights Watch has concerns about some of these attempts, particularly related to their limited scope and application, low bar for compliance, and lack of recourse and accountability. As a result, these laws have not had their intended effect of eliminating forced labor in supply chains. For example, as of June 2017, only 14% of companies that submitted reports under the UK Modern Slavery Act comply with the basic legal requirements, but the lack of penalties under the law means companies face no consequences for non-compliance.[3] The Government of Canada has the opportunity to demonstrate leadership on this pressing issue, and build on existing models to ensure that legislative efforts are effective in combatting child labor and modern slavery.

Human Rights Watch has conducted research on child and forced labor in global supply chains for over two decades. We have interviewed thousands of workers, employers, government officials, and other affected individuals in the context of global supply chains in agriculture, the garment and footwear industry, fishing, mining, and construction. A list of relevant Human Rights Watch reports can be found in the attached Annex. Based on Human Rights Watch’s research and advocacy, we submit the following recommendations for Canadian legislation to combat human rights abuses in global supply chains.

  1. Legislation should address all serious human rights abuses in supply chains

Child and forced labor in supply chains are pressing problems requiring legislative action. In addition, corporate practices in global supply chains contribute to a variety of serious human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch has documented such rights abuses including dangerous working conditions, verbal and physical abuse by employers, impediments or violations of the rights of free association and collective bargaining, and reduction or non-payment of wages. Such practices have profound and damaging impact on workers’ lives. The Government of Canada can and should take steps to ensure that supply chains providing goods and services to its markets exclude those that benefit from these abusive practices.

  1. Legislative requirements should be broadly applied

The Government of Canada can set a powerful example for responsible sourcing through its own public procurement practices. Any legislative efforts to address human rights in supply chains should include purchase of goods, services, and works by all government entities, including transparency and due diligence requirements.

Human Rights Watch also recommends that the Government of Canada consider banning import of all goods produced or manufactured using forced labor, slave labor, child labor, or labor of persons who have been trafficked. In the United States, for example, existing law provides for the banning of goods made with forced labor.[4]

Legislative action to combat human rights abuses should be broadly applied, both to Canadian corporations and to all corporations operating in Canada. While a threshold for application of the law may be set initially, it should be based not only on size of operation or revenue, but should also focus on all industries that have elevated risks for serious human rights abuses in supply chains. These include the agriculture, mining, and apparel sectors. Any threshold limits on size and revenue should be reduced over time, with additional support to small and medium enterprises, to ensure company supply chains are free of serious human rights abuses.

  1. Legislation should require transparency in supply chains

A first step to ensuring meaningful legislation would require companies to be transparent about their supply chains and operations. This would include detailed guidance to businesses on transparency and reporting requirements. With the goal of achieving meaningful transparency, Human Rights Watch recommends that the Government of Canada create a level playing field on transparency by introducing mandatory minimum transparency standards by sector, including identifying and publishing entities along the supply chain. Companies also should be required to disclose the results and methodology of their human rights due diligence. This would include disclosure of any child labor, modern slavery, and other serious human rights abuses found to be present in their supply chains and operations; their methods of ensuring appropriate remedies; and steps to prevent or mitigate future human rights abuses.

  1. Legislation should require companies to conduct human rights due diligence

Human rights due diligence would require companies not only to identify human rights risks in their supply chains, but also the methods to prevent, mitigate, and remedy any abuses found, supporting efforts to end abuses in supply chains. In addition, reporting requirements promote transparency and accountability for harm. Reporting requirements on their own, however, fall short of meaningful action to combat and prevent serious human rights abuses in supply chains. Detailed guidelines on due diligence and reporting will support company compliance with these requirements. Human Rights Watch strongly encourages the Government of Canada to incorporate mandatory human rights due diligence requirements in any proposed legislation consistent with existing international frameworks, such as those associated with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

  1. Legislation should include penalties for non-compliance

The Government of Canada should promote a business environment that respects human rights and works to prevent abuses in supply chains and operations. The government should work with businesses to ensure they understand and can comply with human rights due diligence and transparency requirements. Resources and guidance can be made available to ensure all necessary steps are taken to address serious human rights abuses in supply chains. In cases where companies have not taken good faith efforts to comply with regulation, they should face penalties. Penalties not only ensure that all companies subject to the law are compliant, but also ensure that companies committing resources to following through with human rights obligations are not disadvantaged by those who do not. Penalties can ultimately promote greater compliance, reducing the incidence of serious human rights abuses in supply chains.

  1. Legislation should create a civil course of action for those harmed by non-compliance

When companies choose not to follow reporting or due diligence requirements at the expense of workers in their supply chain, the government needs to ensure that workers around the world have a clear path to remedy and justice, including access to Canadian courts. Some countries are taking steps to address remedy gaps. For example, the French “Duty of Vigilance” law allows people to bring a claim in court if a company is not following through with the law. Canada should similarly create avenues for redress, such as a civil course of action, for workers harmed by companies that fail to identify and address serious human rights abuses in their supply chains.

  1. The Government of Canada should ensure adequate budget and infrastructure to enable implementation

Any legislation to combat serious human rights abuses in supply chains should be accompanied to by adequate budget and infrastructure to support effective implementation, including periodic public reporting on company and government performance. Government websites can support implementation with resources for companies on human rights due diligence and reporting requirements, including guidelines for remedying situations of child labor, forced labor, and other forms of modern slavery in supply chains. A public database on company reporting will also promote transparency and accountability for legislative requirements.

Thank you for your commitment to ending abusive human and labor rights practices in Canada’s supply chains. We appreciate the opportunity to provide input in this study. Should you like to discuss our findings or recommendations, please feel free to contact Human Rights Watch Canada Director, Farida Deif (




[1] 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery and Child Labour, Regional Brief for Africa, Alliance 8.7, (accessed December 11, 2017).

[2] Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, International Labour Organization, Geneva, 2017, (accessed December 11, 2017).

[3] Modern Slavery Reporting: Weak and Notable Practice, June 2017, (accessed December 11, 2017).

[4] The Tariff Act of 1930, 19 USC. § 1307, and the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (TFTEA), Pub. L. 14-125, 130 Stat. 122, sec. 910(a) (2016).

Letter to Cyberbit Solutions re Sale and Use of Cyberbit Systems in Ethiopia - Wednesday, Decem

Dear Mr. Dar,

Human Rights Watch is an independent international organization that monitors human rights in more than 90 countries around the world. I am writing to request your input and perspective to incorporate into Human Rights Watch’s reporting on surveillance abuses in Ethiopia. Our reporting is based on a forthcoming report by Toronto-based research group, Citizen Lab.

We have recently learned through research conducted by Citizen Lab that several Ethiopian activists and commentators based in the United States and United Kingdom, along with one of Citizen Lab’s own research fellows, were targeted with email phishing attacks that, if successful, would have infected their electronic devices with spyware. The report also identifies dozens of other successfully infected devices belonging to unidentified targets in 20 countries. Once infected, the entity that controls the spyware would have unauthorized access to information stored on the targets’ devices. Citizen Lab’s analysis of the spyware log files for these attacks links them to Cyberbit’s PC Surveillance System (PSS) product and places the spyware’s operator inside Ethiopia. The report also identified potential product demonstrations to possible clients in several other countries, including Kazakhstan. Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

The Ethiopian government has a documented history of abusing surveillance technologies, which has facilitated a range of other human rights violations. In a 2014 report, Human Rights Watch documented how the Ethiopian government misused telecommunications surveillance systems and spyware to monitor the activities of perceived political opponents and to silence dissent and intimidate critics.[1] The report describes how Ethiopian authorities have previously used spyware products sold by two other companies, UK/Germany-based FinFisher and Italy-based Hacking Team, to similarly target journalists and government critics outside of Ethiopia. Ethiopian authorities continued to misuse Hacking Team’s system to spy on individuals abroad through at least 2015, when a widely covered breach of the company’s corporate data confirmed its business in Ethiopia.[2]

Ethiopia’s national laws lack meaningful protections for the right to privacy, and the country’s broad security and law enforcement powers are not adequately regulated to prevent arbitrary, unlawful, or disproportionate surveillance. The Ethiopian government has also long invoked national security as a pretext for clamping down on human rights. For example, in a 2015 report, we documented how the government used counterterrorism laws to target journalists and others critical of government.[3] At least 75 journalists have fled into exile since 2010.

Given this context, we want to better understand the circumstances under which Cyberbit’s product was obtained by the Ethiopian government and the steps Cyberbit takes to address any abuse of its products and services by its governmental customers, particularly government agencies seeking lawful intercept, intelligence, or offensive capabilities. We would appreciate specific replies to the following questions. This will greatly assist our understanding of Cyberbit, the products and solutions it offers, its approach to human rights risk, and how it would respond to credible reports of illegal surveillance and other human rights abuses linked to its products and services.

  1. What products, services, or training has Cyberbit provided to the Ethiopian government? Has Cyberbit specifically sold its PC Surveillance System (PSS), PC 360, or a similar product that enables covert information gathering from remote computers to any Ethiopian governmental agency?


  2. Does Cyberbit currently have any governmental clients in the other countries identified in the Citizen Lab report as locations of potential product demonstrations, including Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines, Rwanda, Serbia, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, or Zambia?


  1. What policies and procedures does Cyberbit have in place to vet potential sales or governmental customers? To what extent does Cyberbit inquire about the end use or end users of its products and services?


  1. Has Cyberbit ever conducted due diligence with respect to sales to the Ethiopian government, particularly by examining the government’s human rights record and past surveillance abuses targeting journalists and activists (for example, using FinFisher or Hacking Team products)?


  1. Can Cyberbit elaborate on any policies or procedures it has in place to address and prevent human rights abuses linked with the use of its products or services by governmental customers?


  1. How does Cyberbit monitor whether governmental customers are complying with the terms of their contracts or otherwise misusing its products? What steps, if any, does Cyberbit take if it uncovers violations of company contracts or the use of its products to facilitate human rights abuses by its customers?


We would appreciate a response by December 5, 2017 in order to reflect your response, as well as any other perspectives you may wish to share, in our reporting.

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to your responses to our inquiries. We would also welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with you further.


[1] Human Rights Watch, “They Know Everything We Do”: Telecom and Internet Surveillance in Ethiopia, March 25, 2014,

[2] “Ethiopia: Digital Attacks Intensify,” Human Rights Watch news release, March 9, 2015,; “Ethiopia: Hacking Team Lax on Evidence of Abuse,” Human Rights Watch news release, August 13, 2015,

[3] Human Rights Watch, “Journalism Is Not a Crime”: Violations of Media Freedoms in Ethiopia, January 22, 2015,

Ethiopia: New Spate of Abusive Surveillance - Wednesday, Decem

Ethiopian authorities have carried out a renewed campaign of malware attacks, abusing commercial spyware to monitor government critics abroad, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should immediately cease digital attacks on activists and independent voices, while spyware companies should be far more closely regulated.

On December 6, 2017, independent researchers at the Toronto-based research center Citizen Lab published a technical analysis showing the renewed government malware campaign aimed at Ethiopian activists and political opponents. These attacks follow a long, documented history of similar government efforts to monitor critics, inside and outside of Ethiopia.

“The Ethiopian government has doubled down on its efforts to spy on its critics, no matter where they are in the world,” said Cynthia Wong, senior internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These attacks threaten freedom of expression and the privacy and the digital security of the people targeted.”

Based on analysis of attacks starting in 2016, the Citizen Lab report identified several targets who received phishing emails, including several ethnic Oromo activists and scholars, one of Citizen Lab’s own research fellows, and Jawar Mohammed, an Oromo activist and executive director of the US-based Oromia Media Network (OMN). During the period of the infections described in the report, there were widespread protests in Ethiopia, beginning with Oromo protests over development plans around the capital, Addis Ababa, which culminated in a 10-month state of emergency that was lifted in August 2017. Security forces responded to those largely peaceful protests with lethal force, killing over one thousand protesters and detaining tens of thousands more since November 2015.

The government has gone to various lengths to restrict OMN – an independent media network that covers current events in Oromia, Ethiopia – and other diaspora media outlets. Given Ethiopia’s stranglehold on independent media and access to information, diaspora media outlets provide an important source of information that is independent from government, albeit often heavily politicized.

OMN played a key role in disseminating information during protests in 2015 and 2016. The government has routinely jammed satellite television programs, arrested informants, pressured satellite companies to drop OMN, arrested people who show OMN in their places of businesses, and charged OMN under the antiterrorism law in October 2016.

Identified targets in the most recent round of malware attacks were commentators on Ethiopian affairs, who received emails that were tailored to their interests. The emails invited the targets to download and install a software update, which contained malware, to view the content. The phishing attacks, if successful, would have infected their personal computers with spyware. The Citizen Lab report also uncovered dozens of successfully infected devices belonging to other targets in 20 countries, including in the US, UK, Eritrea, Canada, and Germany.

Citizen Lab’s analysis of the attacks and logfiles places the operator inside Ethiopia and links the software to Cyberbit, an Israel-based cybersecurity company. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Elbit Systems, an Israel-based defense company. The analysis suggests that the spyware in use is Cyberbit’s PC Surveillance System (PSS), which the company may have recently rebranded as PC 360.

Cyberbit’s marketing materials describes PSS as a “comprehensive solution for monitoring and extracting information from remote [personal computers].” Once a computer is infected, the spyware’s operator would gain access to virtually any information available on the device, including files, browsing history, passwords, emails, and what the target types into the computer. The spyware can also take screen shots and activate a computer’s microphone and camera for live surveillance. The marketing materials indicate that PSS was created for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to “reduce crime” and “prevent terrorism.”

Citizen Lab’s report also identifies potential Cyberbit product demonstrations to possible clients in several other countries, including Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines, Rwanda, Serbia, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia.

This is the third known spyware vendor that the Ethiopian government has engaged since 2013. Human Rights Watch and Citizen Lab previously wrote about the government’s use of malware sold by UK/Germany-based Gamma International (reorganized as FinFisher) and Italy-based Hacking Team to target journalists and activists in the Ethiopian diaspora. Authorities continued to misuse Hacking Team’s product through at least 2015, when a widely covered breach of the company’s corporate data confirmed its business in the country.

The government also has a history of abusing other surveillance technologies, which has facilitated a range of human rights violations. Inside the country, Ethiopian authorities have frequently used mobile surveillance to target independent voices. Human Rights Watch has documented how security agencies would play intercepted phone calls during abusive interrogations in an effort to intimidate critics and political opponents into silence.

Spyware companies often market their products to government agencies tasked with fighting crime or preventing terrorism. However, the Ethiopian government has a documented history of abusing its counterterrorism laws to target journalists, bloggers, protesters, and government critics. At least 85 journalists have fled into exile since 2010 as a result of the government’s ongoing crackdown on independent media. Ethiopia’s laws lack meaningful protections for the right to privacy, and the country’s broad security and law enforcement powers are not adequately regulated to prevent arbitrary, unlawful, or disproportionate surveillance.

Human Rights Watch wrote to Cyberbit to request comment on Citizen Lab’s findings, the company’s approach to assessing the human rights impact of spyware sales to government customers, and what steps the company would take if it uncovered government abuses linked to their product. In a December 5 response, the company stated that it is “a vendor and it does not operate any of its products. Cyberbit Solutions customers are the sole operators of the products at their sole responsibility and they are obliged to do so according to all applicable laws and regulations” in their jurisdictions.

The company also stated that it offers its products only to government authorities, and any sales of “lawful interception and intelligence products are subject to export control due to their nature and they were sold only after obtaining all relevant authorizations,” including specific approval of a designated government end user.

Finally, the company stated that while it cannot confirm or deny any specific transaction or client, the company appreciates the concerns raised and is “addressing it subject to the legal and contractual confidentiality obligations Cyberbit Solutions is bound by.”

Cyberbit should immediately investigate misuse of its products by Ethiopian authorities, publicly disclose its findings, and end any plans for future sales and any ongoing support it may be providing, Human Rights Watch said.

Despite some progress in recent years, the sale of commercial spyware remains poorly regulated at the national and international level, as Ethiopia’s repeated purchase of such tools demonstrates. Since 2014, the European Union and 41 member countries to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies have begun to introduce regulations to control the sale of systems like those sold by Cyberbit. However, even where they exist, national implementation of such export controls has been uneven. Some governments do not adequately consider the risk to human rights when evaluating a company’s application to export spyware to repressive regimes.

While Israel does not formally participate in the Wassenaar Arrangement, it nonetheless incorporates the Wassenaar control lists into its national regulations. Exports of spyware systems from Israel’s thriving cybersecurity industry to foreign governments for security purposes require approval from Israel’s Defense Export Control Agency. Though the agency consults with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is unclear whether the government requires an examination of the end-user’s or destination country’s human rights record and whether the sale might facilitate violations of rights.

According to 2016 media reports, the agency had previously approved the sale of similar spyware by the Israeli technology company NSO Group to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite its record of surveillance abuses. The UAE later used this technology to target a prominent human rights activist, Ahmed Mansoor. In October, the export agency announced that it will loosen some export restrictions, though how the changes will apply to spyware systems remains unclear.

The latest Ethiopian malware campaign raises significant questions about whether Israel’s export controls are adequate to prevent human rights abuses linked to spyware sales, Human Rights Watch said. Israel and other governments should ensure that such sales are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and evaluate the end-use and human rights record of the end user.

“It is troubling if Israeli authorities allowed the sale of Cyberbit’s spyware to Ethiopian security agencies, given their established record of using malware to violate rights,” Wong said. “Spyware should be kept far from known human rights abusers.”

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