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EU May Probe Bahrain Spy Gear Abuses
EU May Probe Bahrain Spy Gear Abuses - Bloomberg
European Union legislators asked the EU to investigate whether companies have aided human rights violations by selling surveillance gear to repressive governments.
Marietje Schaake, who is a Dutch member of the European Parliament, and five of her colleagues in the assembly, requested the probe today after Bloomberg News reported that a monitoring system sold and maintained by European companies had generated text-message transcripts used in the interrogation of a human rights activist tortured in Bahrain.
The legislators made their request in writing to EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is also vice president of the European Commission, the 27-nation EU’s executive body in Brussels.
The probe would determine whether any European security and communications companies contributed to “human rights violations, in particular in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Iran,” the request says.
The surveillance technology in Bahrain was sold by Siemens AG (SIE), and later maintained by Nokia Siemens Networks, followed by NSN’s divested unit, Munich-based Trovicor GmbH, Bloomberg reported yesterday, citing Ben Roome, a Nokia Siemens spokesman.
Egypt, Syria and Yemen also purchased monitoring centers from the business now known as Trovicor, according to two people familiar with the installations. The equipment plays a surveillance role in at least 12 Middle Eastern and North African nations, they said.
Supporting Export Ban
Barbara Lochbihler, a German member of the EU Parliament who signed the letter and sits on the Subcommittee on Human Rights, said she plans to speak with company officials about the uses of their products. She supports a European export ban of such technology to regimes that could abuse it, she said.
“As a deputy from Bavaria I´m very interested in the follow up of what happens with the company Trovicor and also with Siemens,” she said in an e-mail. Munich, where Trovicor and Siemens are based, is the Bavarian capital.
The other legislators asking for an inquiry are the Netherlands’ Hans van Baalen, Estonia’s Tunne Kelam, the U.K.’s Sarah Ludford and Slovenia’s Ivo Vajgl, according to a copy of the letter provided by Schaake’s office.
The European Commission will revisit the EU’s corporate responsibility strategy this fall, said Cristina Arigho, a spokeswoman for the commission. She said the EU is also considering how to support the implementation of United Nations principles on business and human rights, passed in June, which say corporations have a duty to respect human rights.