Amnesty International warns that Emirates may monitor COP28 participants’ cell phones to repress freedoms

Amnesty International warns that Emirates may monitor COP28 participants’ cell phones to repress freedoms

The human rights organization Amnesty International warned this Tuesday of the possibility of the United Arab Emirates using digital surveillance during the climate conference (COP28) to silence freedom of expression.

“It’s no secret that targeted digital surveillance has long been a weapon in the UAE, serving to suppress dissent and silence freedom of expression,” said Amnesty International’s Risk Surveillance Team campaigns coordinator. , Rebecca White, in a statement released today.

Last March, Amnesty International’s Security Laboratory exposed a ‘spyware’ attack campaign (a type of program that infiltrates computer systems and ‘smartphones’ to collect personal or confidential information) operating in several countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which pirated mobile devices using Google’s Android system.

The concern has, in fact, been raised throughout the year by various civil society groups, who fear participating in COP28 due to the likelihood of being the target of surveillance on their computer or cell phone.

The official admitted that Amnesty International fears that human rights defenders and other members of civil society in the UAE or even conference participants could be targets of ‘spyware’.

“As hosts of COP28, the UAE has committed to providing a platform for the voices of activists, but this will not be possible if human rights, including the rights to privacy and peaceful assembly, are not respected,” warned Rebecca White.

“The UAE authorities must not carry out illegal electronic surveillance, neither of conference participants nor of any citizen or resident of the Emirates”, he argued, noting that the country “must allow COP28 participants to download international communications applications that respect the privacy, like Signal, to ensure they can use secure and encrypted means of communication.”

Recalling that the use of digital surveillance during the event can be a means of worsening the repression of dissent and freedom of expression, Rebecca White recalled the case of activist Ahmed Mansoor, detained in 2017 following a series of cyberattacks.

Known as the “last defender of human rights in the United Arab Emirates”, Ahmed Mansoor was the target of cyber attacks “facilitated by mercenary surveillance companies” and was caught criticizing the authorities’ way of acting, having been imprisoned for six years, he explained.

The 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) is scheduled for Dubai, between November 30th and December 12th.


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