French spyware bosses indicted for role in torture of dissidents

Senior executives at a French spyware company have been charged with selling the company’s surveillance software to authoritarian regimes in Libya and Egypt, resulting in the torture and disappearance of dissidents.

While high-tech surveillance is a multibillion dollar industry around the world, it is rare for companies or individuals to face legal consequences for selling such technologies, even to notorious dictatorships or to individuals. other dangerous diets. But charges brought by the Paris court against executives from Amesys, a watch company that later changed its name to Nexa Technology, claim that sales to Libya and Egypt over the last decades have led to the crushing of the opposition, the torture of dissidents and other rights violations.

The former boss of Amesys, Philippe Vannier, and three current and former executives of Nexa technologies have been indicted for “complicity in acts of torture” for having sold spy technologies to the Libyan regime. French media report that Nexa President Olivier Bohbot, Managing Director Renaud Roques and former President Stéphane Salies face the same charges for surveillance sales to Egypt.

“When you look at the attempts to hold these companies accountable, you see a lot of failures… we still face big hurdles.”

Clémence Bectarte, International Federation for Human Rights

The charges were laid by the tribunal’s crimes against humanity and war crimes unit, but the case began 10 years ago when Amesys sold its internet traffic eavesdropping system to the Libyan dictator. Muammar Gaddafi. Six victims of espionage testified in France that they had been arrested and tortured by the regime, an experience which, according to them, was the direct result of these espionage tools. In 2014, the company sold surveillance software to Egyptian President Abdel al-Sisi shortly after taking control of the country in a military coup.

The complaints, filed by the International Federation of Human Rights, or FIDH, and the French Human Rights League, allege that the company did not have government permission to sell its technologies to Libya or Egypt because control was weak and sometimes non-existent. The complaints led to an independent judicial inquiry against Amesys / Nexa, which is still ongoing. Then the judges will decide whether to send the case back to a criminal court or dismiss it if there is not enough evidence, but the indictment is a big step forward and indicates the prospect that judges will view the evidence as potentially strong enough to support a criminal trial.

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