Arms exporters urged to stop surveillance equipment becoming tools of repression

The major arms exporting governments should immediately tackle the alarming proliferation of surveillance technologies in repressive countries, Amnesty International, other leading international human rights and digital rights organizations urged today in an open letter

The letter has been sent to 41 of the largest arms exporters which are meeting behind closed doors as part of the so-called “Wassenaar Arrangement” on 2-3 December. It outlines how human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and others are increasingly being targeted when spyware, malware and other surveillance tools fall into the hands of governments that commit systematic human rights violations. 

“Surveillance technologies are not simply harmless tools. In the wrong hands they are often used as a tool of repression. Evidence is continuing to reveal the extent of this secretive trade that puts countless individuals at direct risk from human rights abusing governments,” the letter states. 

“This trade results in unlawful surveillance, which often leads to further human rights violations including invasions of privacy, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the silencing of free expression, preventing political participation, and crushing offline and online dissent.”

Governments should refuse to grant export licenses for surveillance equipment to countries where they are likely to be used for abuses, and work with NGOs to develop an international legal framework that includes accurate and effective controls on the trade of such tools. 


To read the full letter, please visit: 

The letter was jointly sent by the following organizations, who together launched the Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports (CAUSE) earlier this year. 

Amnesty International Digitale Gesellschaft FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) Human Rights Watch Open Technology Institute (at New America) Privacy International Reporters sans frontiers 

The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies brings together 41 of the world’s largest arms exporters, excluding China and Israel. Their forums, such as the one on 2-3 December, typically take place behind closed doors at the Wassenaar Arrangement’s Secretariat in Vienna.