OECD complaint: Gamma International exporting surveillance technology to Bahrain

Long Read

On 1st February 2013 Privacy International, together with the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Watch and Reporters without Borders, filed complaints with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) against Gamma International, a company that exports “FinFisher” (or “FinSpy”) intrusive surveillance software, and Trovicor GmbH, a German company (formerly a business unit of Siemens) which also sells internet monitoring and mass surveillance products.

The complaint against Gamma International asked the UK National Contact Point (NCP), to ascertain whether the company breached the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises by exporting surveillance products to Bahrain, where the authorities use such products in human rights abuses, including the arrest, detention and torture of political opponents and dissidents.

In June 2013, the complaint was accepted by the UK NCP for further investigation, and the NCP published its Initial Assessment in this case on its website on 21 June 2013. The NCP noted that

    (…) while neither party has provided direct evidence about a supply by Gamma to Bahrain, the evidence provided suggests that the company’s product may have been used against Bahraini activists. The NCP considers that this substantiates the issues in respect of the company’s obligations to do appropriate due diligence and to address impacts.”

After being accepted, the complainants and the company met for mediation. This process is still ongoing.

After the mediation process, the OECD NCP issues a final statement on whether the OECD Guidelines have been breached, and provides recommendations to the defendants on how to avoid further breaches. The NCP will also follow up in order to make sure that the company complies with its recommendations.