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26 Jun 2024

MENA: Corporate transparency & accountability outreach of surveillance companies operating in the region

In 2022, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited 24 companies, which allegedly produced or provided surveillance technologies to governments in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region, to respond to a survey on corporate transparency and the human rights due diligence processes. Analysis of the survey responses underscored a significant lack of transparency, gaps in human rights policies and limited commitment to accountability for the companies selling surveillance software and services in the MENA region, a high-risk jurisdiction where situations of armed conflict, violent extremism, shrinking civic space and repression of civil society are common challenges.

In May 2024, the Resource Centre re-invited 23 of the companies profiled in the Resource Centre’s 2022 briefing (one company, Evron Systems Ltd, could not be contacted and is therefore excluded from the list) to respond to questions about their provision or deployment of surveillance technology in the MENA region, as well as about their human rights due diligence processes. Specifically, the survey asked whether companies consider the countries in the region in which they operate to be ‘high risk/challenging contexts’, where the risk of human rights abuses is heightened, and therefore requiring them to conduct heightened human rights due diligence (hHRDD). In addition, the Resource Centre invited the same 23 companies to respond to specific allegations of human rights abuse taking place in the period 1 September 2022 and 31 May 2024.

The 23 companies invited to respond are Airbus, BAE Systems, Cellebrite, Cisco, Dahua Technology, Dassault, Elbit Systems, Elettronica Mangione (Elman), G4S, GEM Security Services Ltd., Idemia, Indra, IrisGuard, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Leonardo (formerly Finmeccanica), Nexa Technologies, Oosto (formerly Anyvision) Safran Group, Sony Corporation, Sovereign Global Solutions Ltd., Thales, TSG IT Advanced Systems, and VideoTec. Only Airbus, G4S, Indra, Leonardo, and Sony responded (linked below).

By analysing company responses to the survey and the allegations, the Resource Centre aims to shed light on the progress, or lack thereof, in corporate transparency and accountability of the 23 tech surveillance companies alleged to have produced or supplied surveillance technologies to governments in the MENA region, as human rights risks in the region continue to rise.