French spyware bosses accused of their role in torturing dissidents


The former leaders of a French spyware company have been accused of selling surveillance software by the company to authoritarian regimes in Libya and Egypt that has led to the torture and disappearance of dissidents.

While high-tech surveillance is a multimillion-dollar industry in the world, it is rare for companies or individuals to face legal consequences for the sale of such technologies – even to famous dictatorships or other dangerous regimes. But accusations in a Paris court against the executives of Amesys, a surveillance company that later changed its name to Nexa Technology, claim that sales in Libya and Egypt over the past decade have led to the crushing of opposition, the torture of dissidents and other humans. abuse of rights.

Former Amesys chief Philippe Vannier and three current and former leaders of Nexa technologies have been accused of “complicity in acts of torture” for the sale of spy technology to the Libyan regime. The French media report that Nexa president Olivier Bohbot, general manager Renaud Roques, and former president Stéphane Salies face the same costs for surveillance sales in Egypt.

“When you look at the attempts to hold these companies accountable, you see a lot of failures … we are always facing strong obstacles.”

Clémence Bectarte, International Federation for Human Rights

The charges were brought by the court’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes unit, but the case began 10 years ago when Amesys sold its system for intercepting internet traffic to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Six victims of espionage have testified in France that they have been arrested and tortured by the regime, an experience they say is the direct result of these espionage tools. In 2014, the company sold surveillance software to Egyptian President Abdel al-Sisi shortly after he took control of the country in a military coup.

The complaints, filed by the International Federation for Human Rights, or FIDH, and the French Law for Human Rights, claim that the company did not have the government’s permission to sell its technologies in Libya or Egypt because of supervision. it was weak and sometimes non-existent. The claims have led to an independent judicial investigation against Amesys / Nexa, which is still ongoing. Then, the judges will decide whether to refer the case to the criminal court or dismiss it if there is not enough evidence — but the prosecution is a major step forward and points toward the prospect that judges will consider the evidence potentially strong enough to support a criminal proceedings.

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