Human rights organisations file OECD complaints against surveillance firms

20 December 2013 - Privacy International, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Watch and Reporters Without Borders filed formal complaints with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the UK and Germany against two surveillance companies on Friday 1st February and Wednesday 6th February, respectively. The British and German OECD National Contact Points were being asked to investigate Gamma International and Trovicor respectively with regards to both companies’ potential complicity in serious human rights abuses in Bahrain. The British OECD contact point  accepted the complaint against Gamma International. The German contact point rejected the complaint on 20 December 2013. .

The complainants argue that there are grounds to investigate whether surveillance products and services provided by Gamma International and Trovicor have been instrumental in multiple human rights abuses in Bahrain, including arbitrary detention and torture, as well as violations of the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of association. They allege that there is evidence that information gathered from intercepted phone and internet communications may have been used to systematically detain and torture political dissidents and activists and to extort confessions from them. If the allegations are upheld, the companies are likely to be found to be in breach of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, recommendations addressed by governments to multinational enterprises that set out principles and standards for responsible business conduct.