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Legal complaint lodged against the French firm AMESYS of complicity in acts of torture perpetrated by the Gaddafi regime in Libya

On 19 October the International Human Rights League and the French Human Rights League lodged a complaint with the Paris Court of First Instance against the French firm Amesys. According to the Ministry of Defence's online registry, Amesys specialised in "electronic warfare".

The company is said to have been compliciy in acts of torture perpetrated by the Libyan regime following the signature in 2007 of a contract agreeing to assistance with the interception of telecommunication and associated data processing. Cooperation allegedly included the selling of technology, training of Libyan users and monitoring activities.[1]

Last August, the Wall Street Journal revealed foreign firms had helped Gaddafi's regime spy on Libyans, chiefly through the selling of computer systems. Documents found by journalists in the abandoned compounds of the former intelligence services include emails dating from February 2011, i.e. after start of the uprising against the dictatorial regime.[2]

Amesys's logo was found on many of the documents discovered in August. Asked about its contribution to the regime's surveillance network and the oppression of the Libyan people, the company replied that:

"The contract only concerned the sale of materials capable of analysing a fraction of existing internet connections, only a few thousand".[3]

According to the website OWNI, the Eagle surveillance system sold by Amesy intercepted a much broader range of telecommunications including traffic (internet), mobile and landline telephone networks, WiFi, satellite, radio signals and microwaves.
Further the company ensured its activities were "in strict accordance with the statutory and regulatory requirements of international, European and French conventions" in a press release (which has apparently been withdrawn and cannot be found online).[4]

It is argued by the French Secretary of Defence and General Security that no prior approval was required for the export of the Eagle system. The French government is therefore denying any knowledge of the business relations between Gaddafi's regime and Amesys.

However, this seems to be in contradiction with a 2005 official decree on financial activities in foreign countries according to which "Research, development, production or selling activities in relation to the interception of correspondence and the remote surveillance of conversations" (Article R.153-5) should be approved first by the Ministry of Economy (Article L. 151-3).

Moreover, in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, a former military officer who worked with Amesys in the training of Libya engineers in 2008 to set up the Libyan surveillance system confirmed that "the entire country was under surveillance". [5]

Journalistic investigation suggests the involvement of Amesys in Libya earlier. Mediapart revealed that Ziad Takieddine, a French-Lebanese businessman, had acted as an intermediary in negotiating the selling by Amesys, then I2E, of an encryption system (Cryptowall) capable of protecting the Libyan intelligence services from interception by the American Echelon system. [6]

Takieddine's role in France's relations with Libya and Syria, particularly in the negotiation of arms contracts, has been exposed over the past weeks by French media.

Finally, the French State and its Public Loan and Investment Bank (Caisse des dépôts) are the third largest holder of Amesys shares [7], which may suggest that the companies' activities may have been known, if not monitored, by public officials.

Sources

[1] La FIDH et la LDH déposent plainte mettant en cause la société Amesys pour complicité d'actes de torture
[2] Wall Street Journal, Firms aided Libyan spies
[3] OWNI, A guide to Libya's surveillance network
[4] OWNI, Doing business with Gaddafi: making millions and risking lives
[5] Le Figaro, Comment j'ai mis 5 millions de Libyens sur écoute
[6] Libération, Affaire Takieddine, une liaison dangereuse en Sarkozie
[7] Libération, Amesys, la bienveillance de l'Etat et la fille de Gérard Longuet


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