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 Friay 1st February. The British and German National Contact Points are being asked to investigate Gamma Internationaland Trovicor respectively with regards to both companies’ potential complicity in serious human rights abuses in Bahrain.
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 right 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.
The UK’s NCP is based at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the German NCP is based at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. If the NCPs accept the complaints against Gamma and Trovicor, they will then:
- investigate the extent of the defendants’ complicity in human rights abuses in Bahrain;
- mediate between complainants and defendants;
- issue final statements on whether OECD Guidelines have in fact been breached;
- provide recommendations to the defendants on how to avoid further breaches; and
- follow up in order to ensure that they comply with those recommendations.