Analysis of potential US Alien Tort Claims Act case against Vodafone, Mobinil for role in aiding Mubarak's communications blackout during revolution

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Article
24 May 2011

Can Egypt’s communication giants be sued in the US for the blackout early in the revolution?

Author: Yasmine Gado, Ahram Online

Beginning on 28 January 2011, on the orders of former president Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s telecommunications giants Vodafone, Mobinil and Etisalat cut services, phones and the Internet for five days. Mubarak took the action to inhibit Egyptians' freedom to associate and organise, part of an overall terror campaign to suppress the revolt against his regime…In April, the Egyptian Centre for Housing Rights filed a lawsuit on behalf of other plaintiffs against the three telecommunications companies…seeking compensation for the damages they suffered due to the shutdown of communications…An interesting question is whether any of these companies could also be sued in US courts…under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA)….If Egyptian plaintiffs can convince a US court that by shutting down communications the telecom companies knowingly participated in a campaign designed to inhibit and deny Egyptians the freedom to associate and organize and even more egregiously a terror campaign that included torture and extrajudicial killing, they may have a case. [also refers to Verizon, Orascom]

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Company response
22 February 2011

Egypt: Telecoms & internet blackout Jan-Feb 2011, and company responses

Author: Compiled by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

In February 2011 Human Rights First wrote to telecommunications companies and internet providers operating in Egypt. It asked them to share details about the circumstances in which a service blackout in Egypt took place, in the days prior to the revolution...Business & Human Rights Resource Centre also contacted the companies, encouraging them to respond to Human Rights First’s letter. Noor Group, LINKdotNet, Vodafone responded; Etisalat and Egypt Telecom did not respond; Raya Group responded saying that Raya Holding sold Raya Telecom to Vodafone Egypt in 2006, so Raya is no longer an Internet Service Provider (ISP) / Telco provider in Egypt.

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Article
1 February 2011

Google and Twitter launch service enabling Egyptians to tweet by phone

Author: Charles Arthur, Guardian [UK]

Google and Twitter have launched a service to allow people in Egypt to send Twitter messages by leaving a voicemail on a specific number...No internet connection is required. That will be important for users in Egypt after Noor Group, which had been the last internet service provider connecting to the outside world, went dark late on Monday. It had remained online after the country's four main internet providers – Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr – abruptly stopped shuttling internet traffic into and out of the country last Friday.

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Article
1 February 2011

How should Internet and Phone Companies respond in Egypt?

Author: Salil Tripathi, Institute for Human Rights and Business

...[T]here is a serious question companies doing business in Egypt face: when they comply with the law, what are they complying with, and in the process, are they being complicit? And if so, with what?...[T]here is a range of steps Vodafone and other companies which received the directive (besides Vodafone/Raya, other implicated companies are Link Egypt, Telecom Egypt, and Etisalat Misr) could have considered...

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Article
1 February 2011

Human rights due diligence will be vital for companies

Author: John Morrison, Executive Director, Institute for Human Rights and Business, in letter to Financial Times

Sir, The Vodafone website states that it had “no legal or practical option” other than to close down its mobile network in Egypt (the largest in the country) over recent days and to “comply with the demands of the authorities”. The clash between local law, albeit that of an authoritarian regime, and international law will be a key theme for the information and communication technologies sector for years to come...These companies will need to exercise comprehensive human rights due diligence before signing contracts with the governments or joint venture arrangements with national companies. [also refers to Ericsson, Nokia, Yahoo!]

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Article
29 January 2011

Amnesty sharply criticises Vodafone over Egypt cutoff - report

Author: Monsters & Critics

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has sharply criticised British telecom provider Vodafone for the cutoff of services by the company's unit in Egypt, the German business paper Handelsblatt reported Saturday. AI general secretary Salil Shetty...said the move by Vodafone Egypt 'not only betrayed those who buy and use its phones but reveals a shocking disregard for freedom of speech by one of the world's leading telecommunications companies.'

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Article
28 January 2011

Condemnation over Egypt’s internet shutdown

Author: Tim Bradshaw, Financial Times

Egypt’s near total internet and mobile phone blackout on Friday has drawn international condemnation, putting pressure on the European operators whose local business units were forced to comply with the government’s orders. Overnight on Friday, Egyptian authorities told telecommunications companies to cut off broadband and mobile networks...Young people had been using mobile phones and social networking sites such as Twitter, which had faced restrictions earlier in the week, to mobilise support and organise their protests...Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, said in Davos: “I believe that one of the ground principles of democracy should be to protect the freedom of speech of the people.” [also refers to France Telecom, Google, Mobinil, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone]

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