French spyware chiefs accused of torture of dissidents

Senior executives of a French spy software company have been indicted for selling the company surveillance software to authoritarian regimes in Libya and Egypt, which led to the torture and disappearance of dissidents.

While high-tech surveillance is a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide, it is rare for companies or individuals to face legal consequences for selling such technologies — even to notorious dictatorships or other dangerous regimes. But accusations in the Paris Judicial Court against leaders at Amesys, a monitoring company that later changed its name to Nexa Technology, allege sales to Libya and Egypt over the past decade have crushed dissent and tortured dissidents and other human beings. Rights violations.

Former Amesys chief Philippe Vanier, and three current and former Nexa Technologies executives have been accused of “complicity in acts of torture” for selling spying technology to the Libyan regime. French media Report Nexa president Olivier Bohbot, general manager Renault Roc and former president Stephane Salles face the same charges related to surveillance sales to Egypt

“When you look at the attempts to hold these companies accountable, you see a lot of failures…we still have strong hurdles.”

Clemens Buckart, 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 to listen in on Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s internet traffic. Six victims of spying in France testified about being arrested and tortured by the regime, which they say is a direct result of these spy tools. In 2014, the company sold surveillance software to Egyptian President Abdel-Sisi shortly after he took control of the country in a military coup.

The complaints, submitted by the International Federation for Human Rights and the French League for Human Rights, allege that the company did not obtain government permission to sell its technology to Libya or Egypt due to weak and sometimes non-existent oversight. The allegations led to an independent judicial investigation against Amesys/Nexa, which is ongoing. Next, the judges will decide whether to send the case to the Assize Court or dismiss the case if there is not enough evidence – but the indictment is a huge step forward and indicates that judges consider the evidence strong enough to support a criminal prosecution.

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