Human rights defender targeted with spyware

Association

On 20th August, reports revealed that a programme linked to an Israeli security firm attempted to hack into the phone of high profile human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor’s by exploiting security weaknesses in the Apple operating system. Apple has since changed their security protections as a consequence of the reported attack. Ahmed Mansoor has been repeatedly targeted by the UAE authorities. According to a report by Citizen Lab, other human rights defenders and activists have also been targeted by 'Stealth Falcon' malware since 2012. Targets included five dissidents who were later arrested or convicted in absentia, as well as Rori Donaghy a UK based journalist.

In a separate development, international human rights organisations have called for the release of Emirati academic and human rights defender Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith. Dr. Bin Ghaith was arrested in August 2015 and held in incommunicado detention until the start of his trial in April 2016. Dr. Bin Ghaith was reportedly tortured and denied access to a lawyer and the UAE authorities repeatedly refused to give his family information about his whereabouts. According to the information submitted to the UN Special Procedures, the charges against Dr. Bin Ghaith are: 

"based on broad and vague provisions under the Penal Code, cybercrime law, and the 2014 counterterror law, all of which the UAE authorities have used in recent years to imprison peaceful critics and activists."

The next hearing in the case against him will take place on 14th November.

Another activist targeted is Amina Abdouli, who appeared before the Supreme Federal Court on 19th September on charges relating to her activities on Twitter. She was charged with “creating and running two twitter accounts and publishing information with the aim of inciting hatred against the State and disturbing public order, mocking and damaging the reputation of State institutions.” Amina is the latest member of the Abdouli family to be harrassed through the courts by the authorities, following similar actions taken against her brother and father.