Saudi Arabia: Human Rights Watch highlights role of surveillance technology in govt. violations of activists' human rights

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, 'The High Cost of Change’: Repression Under Saudi Crown Prince Tarnishes Reforms’, reveals an increasingly repressive environment in Saudi Arabia, despite promises of reform. HRW documented a proliferation of human rights violations including arbitrary detention, unfair trials and torture amid a deepening crackdown on activists, women’s rights defenders and perceived dissidents.

The report highlights the government’s deployment of surveillance and technology companies to hack into the account of critics, including through the use of spyware apparently produced and sold by NSO.  HRW also points to the government’s use of Twitter to threaten activists. HRW makes a number of recommendations to technology companies, including halting the sale of surveillance technology to Saudi Arabia, improving transparency regarding how their technology is used, investigating the potential use of their technology against activists, and advocating for the release of activists detained for exercising their freedom of expression.

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Report
4 November 2019

'The High Cost of Change’: Repression Under Saudi Crown Prince Tarnishes Reforms

Author: Human Rights Watch (HRW)

[Recommendations to Technology Companies]

  • Halt sales of surveillance technologies to Saudi Arabia and halt existing contracts providing for ongoing training and technical support to ensure that these activities do not contribute to human rights violations;
  • Provide transparency around past sales of surveillance technologies to Saudi Arabia;
  • Investigate whether surveillance technologies sold to Saudi Arabia were used to spy on dissidents at home and abroad in violation of their terms of service and applicable human rights standards;
  • Advocate for the release of dissidents and activists detained solely for peaceful criticism of Saudi authorities.

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Article
4 November 2019

Saudi Arabia: Change Comes with Punishing Cost

Author: Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Important social reforms enacted under Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have been accompanied by deepening repression and abusive practices meant to silence dissidents and critics, Human Rights Watch said...

"'The High Cost of Change’: Repression Under Saudi Crown Prince Tarnishes Reforms,” documents ongoing arbitrary and abusive practices by Saudi authorities targeting dissidents and activists since mid-2017 and total lack of accountability for those responsible...

Saudi Arabia has reportedly used commercially available surveillance technologies to hack into the online accounts of government critics and dissidents.

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