Select this search icon to access the search form

Main menu

Facebook Share

Surveillance, Security and Human Rights

    January 15, 2020

    From sophisticated spyware attacks to mass phishing via smartphones and the rise of facial recognition technology, the range and reach of surveillance threats to human rights defenders is growing.

    For security teams trying to keep activists safe, it is a cat-and-mouse game as attackers rapidly adapt to developments aimed at protection.

    “When cyber-attackers see people are switching to using (messaging app) Signal, for example, then they will try to target Signal. If people start changing to VPN technology, they will start blocking VPN technology. If people are using Tor browser, they will target Tor traffic,” says Ramy Raoof, tactical technologist with Amnesty Tech.

    Raoof says one of the main focuses for 2020 will be tackling customized targeting of smartphones, which hit headlines in 2019. Last October, messaging app WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, launched a high-profile case against surveillance company NSO Group for spyware attacks on more than a thousand of its users.

    June 05, 2019

    Ahead of the court hearing in the case of Nguyen Ngoc Anh tomorrow, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia, said:

    “The sham charges levelled against Nguyen Ngoc Anh show that no one is safe on Facebook in Vietnam anymore. Anh is only the last case in a growing list of netizens prosecuted, arrested or detained solely for peacefully discussing public affairs or criticizing the government.

    “The authorities in Hanoi are now extending, online, the chokehold they have put on civic and political rights in the country for decades, using Facebook as a tool to further their repression of dissenting voices.

    “The court should drop these politically-motivated charges and release him immediately and unconditionally.”


    Nguyen Ngoc Anh is an aquatic engineer from Ben Tre province. He is active in political debates on social media and especially used Facebook to express his opinions and share content from other Facebook users.

    March 25, 2019

    TORONTO, March 25, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ - This evening a plane carrying Vanessa Rodel and her 7-year-old daughter Keana will land at Toronto's Pearson airport. It is the partial culmination of a saga that began in 2013 when Rodel, her daughter and five other asylum seekers sheltered Edward Snowden, at the time the most wanted man in the world.

    Rodel's application to come to Canada as a privately sponsored refugee was filed in 2016 by non-profit For the Refugees. That application was finally approved by the Canadian government in January, but the decision was kept secret until now for security reasons. The other five refugees, whose applications were submitted at the same time, remain in limbo in Hong Kong as they wait for their approvals. These vulnerable refugees face documented threats of torture and death if returned to their home countries, according to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations.

    May 10, 2018

    Amnesty International has verified through cases it has documented that the Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) is not fulfilling its obligation to pursue investigations into excessive use of force on 1 October  by state security forces, specifically members of a special tactical unit of the National Police and the Civil Guard.

    In a report presented today, 1-O en Cataluña: Obstáculos para la investigación del uso excesivo de la fuerza (1 October in Catalonia: Obstacles in the investigation of excessive use of force), Amnesty International shows that, faced with the efforts of various courts to establish the truth of what happened, the PPO is taking steps that obstruct the proceedings and encourage the disqualification of complaints. The PPO has even shown a lack of interest in the process, complicating the efforts of judicial authorities to clarify what happened.

    For example, the PPO tried to present acts of violence by demonstrators as fundamental evidence that should preclude investigations into excessive use of force, presenting videos showing the participation of protesters in incidents with security forces.

    June 19, 2017

    Responding to a NYT’s article that disclosed the use of software to spy on Mexican journalists and human rights defenders, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said:

    “This new chilling evidence confirms that Mexican journalists and human rights defenders are a target of illegal practices designed to interfere and hinder their work. These findings are consistent with Amnesty International's previous research and show a clear pattern of illegal use of technology in an attempt to control any criticism against those in power.”

    “Journalists and human rights defenders constantly put their lives at risk in order to defend everybody’s rights and to inform the public. This is not a crime and surveillance into these activities is illegal and cannot be justified. These actions should be promptly and adequately investigated.”


    May 31, 2017

    France: Unchecked clampdown on protests under guise of fighting terrorism

    Powers designed to combat terrorism have been repeatedly misused to curb peaceful protest, a new report from Amnesty International has found.

    A right not a threat: Disproportionate restrictions on demonstrations under the State of Emergency in France reveals that hundreds of unjustified measures restricting freedom of movement and the right to peaceful assembly have been issued under the guise of countering terrorism.

    “Emergency laws intended to protect the French people from the threat of terrorism are instead being used to restrict their rights to protest peacefully,” said Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s researcher on France.

    “Under the cover of the state of emergency, rights to protest have been stripped away with hundreds of activists, environmentalists, and labour rights campaigners unjustifiably banned from participating in protests.”

    May 26, 2017

    Key legislative amendments approved by the Tunisian Parliament this week are a positive step towards ending some of the discriminatory and disproportionate restrictions on freedom of movement in Tunisia, said Amnesty International.

    The changes to the 1975 Law on Passports, passed on 23 May, include new provisions requiring that reasons are provided for decisions to impose travel bans or withdraw passports, that people affected by a travel ban are informed of the decision promptly, and guaranteeing that they have the right to challenge the decision. The law also limits travel bans to a maximum of 14 months in all circumstances, after which the ban has to be lifted.

    “The draft law adopted this week is a positive development that will help lift some arbitrary restrictions on the right of individuals in Tunisia to travel outside of the country and grants them the right to challenge such restrictions,” said Heba Morayef, North Africa research director at Amnesty International.

    “Parliament should now go further and review the arbitrary application of orders by the Ministry of Interior which restrict freedom of movement inside the country.”

    January 17, 2017

    Released: 10:01 GMT 17 January 2017

    Sweeping new laws are driving Europe into a deep and dangerous state of permanent securitization, Amnesty International said on the publication of a comprehensive human rights analysis of counter-terrorism measures across 14 EU member states.

    Dangerously disproportionate: The ever-expanding national security state in Europe reveals how a deluge of laws and amendments passed with break-neck speed, is undermining fundamental freedoms and dismantling hard-won human rights protections.

    “In the wake of a series of appalling attacks, from Paris to Berlin, governments have rushed through a raft of disproportionate and discriminatory laws,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe.

    “Taken alone these individual counter-terrorism measures are worrying enough, but when seen together, a disturbing picture emerges in which unchecked powers are trampling freedoms that have long been taken for granted.”

    December 06, 2016

    NEW YORK – Responding to President Obama’s speech today on counterterrorism, Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security with Human Rights program, released the following statement:

    “Today President Obama made the case for a national security policy that respects human dignity and human rights. With a president-elect who has enthusiastically embraced waterboarding, a special registry for Muslims and expansion of indefinite detention at Guantanamo, it cannot be overstated that these legal boundaries must be drawn – repeatedly. 

    “Regardless of who is president, the U.S. has international human rights obligations. The U.S. cannot live up to those obligations if it returns to systematic torture and continues to hold people indefinitely without charge.

    October 19, 2016

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. 

    Human rights or security?  In Canada and around the world the debate rages on; but it is an utterly false debate.  We must, finally and firmly, reject the assumption and assertion that more of one necessarily leads to less of the other.  There is no security without human rights.

    A few years ago I was in West Africa with an Amnesty International research team looking into a range of human rights violations associated with counter-terrorism laws and operations in Mauritania.  The sister of an army officer who had “disappeared” while in prison summed up perfectly the absurdity of the notion that there is any sort of rights and security trade-off.  As she told me, “if they truly want us to feel more secure, they should start by stopping violating our rights.”

    October 19, 2016

    Canada must put human rights at the forefront of its approach to national security by adopting a rights-based framework in its upcoming reform of current laws, policy and practices, says an Amnesty International policy brief released today. 

    “For too long, Canadians have been presented with the false and misleading notion that inescapable trade-offs must be made between protection of human rights and ensuring Canadians are kept safe from security threats,” said Alex Neve. “By adopting a human rights-based framework for national security, Canada can demonstrate leadership in addressing grave human rights shortcomings in its current approach while also better ensuring the overall security of its citizens.”

    Amnesty International’s policy brief outlines five guiding principles to form the basis of a human rights-based framework to national security and calls for a number of existing laws and policies to be repealed or reformed.

    September 26, 2016

     Released 2300 GMT 26 September 2016

    The success of an historic peace deal between the Colombian government and the country’s largest guerilla group, which was officially signed today in Cartagena, rests on the Colombian authorities’ ability to ensure truth, justice and reparation for the millions of victims of the more than 50 year-long conflict, said Amnesty International.

    The peace agreement will still need to be ratified via a plebiscite, to be held on 2 October.

    “Today will rightly be a day of celebration in Colombia. The authorities must now guarantee this historic achievement is not undermined by ensuring that all those responsible for the despicable crimes under international law inflicted on millions of people over half a century face justice,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “The crimes of those who carried out, ordered or benefited from these abuses, including those in business and politics, cannot and must not be brushed off with the stroke of a pen.”

    July 01, 2016

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the Obama administration disclosed its assessment of the number of individuals killed by U.S. drone strikes since 2009. In response, Naureen Shah, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Program, issued the following statement:

    “Today’s disclosure is a crucial shift away from the Obama administration’s longstanding policy of concealing information about civilians killed in drone strikes. It is a vital step in dismantling the dangerous precedent of a global, secret killing program.

    “Amnesty International has consistently called on the United States government not only to be more transparent about its data and policy standards, but about it counts as a civilian. Without information on the administration’s definitions and legal standards for these strikes, any meaningful assessment of the numbers will be incomplete. This is not the end of the public conversation on U.S. drone strikes, but just the beginning.   

    March 10, 2016

    The Honourable Ralph Goodale
    Minister of Public Safety

    Dear Minister:

    Re:       The necessary components of an effective and integrated national security accountability framework for Canada

    March 10, 2016

    The Honourable Ralph Goodale 
    Minister of Public Safety

    March 10, 2016

    Dear Minister,

    We are writing this Open Letter to offer a set of recommended principles to guide the anticipated consultations you will soon be launching further to the government’s commitment to review and revise Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015. We urge you to take an approach that demonstrates a commitment to protect national security by upholding human rights and rejecting the false dichotomy of rights or security.

    Our organizations all have serious concerns about the numerous human rights problems associated with this new law.  As a result, over the past year we have appeared before parliamentary committees, raised concerns with UN bodies, turned to the courts, spoken to audiences across the country, launched campaigns and carried out media interviews, pressing for the concerns to be addressed.  We therefore welcome the prospect of reform.


    Subscribe to Surveillance, Security and Human Rights