Friday, March 06, 2009

Bahrain: Violation of Personal Privacy

Bahrain: Violation of Personal Privacy

6 Feb 2009On Wednesday, 25 February 2009, the Bahrain Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) issued a public charter on a draft regulatory terms on the provision of technical facilities to support “national security requirements”. As per the TRA charter, and based on Article 78 of the Telecommunications Law, licensed operators are to provide all necessary technical capabilities to ensure the legal access to relevant security bodies through their communication networks. In the proposed regulation, the TRA aims, among other things, to regulate the means through which operations listed in Article (78) of the Act are facilitated.
Mr. Mohammed Mahmood-Director of Operations and Technical Affairs at the TRA stated that:”In the context of cooperation with other national bodies, the TRA deals with matters relating to the legalization of access of security agencies to information, archived data and other security issues involved in the regulation itself. We are confident that these issues will be adequately considered by all licensed operators''.

As per other officials at the TRA, the regulation requires significant changes to the core network of the operator licensee and that all operators are urged to consider the draft document and submit their comments by the deadline- March 26.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its concerns over these move intending to provide a legal mandate to intrude into residents privacy and in particular dissidents and rights defenders.

BCHR president Nabeel Rajab commented on the TRA 's decision , saying, “Although Infringing privacy of activists has always been a practice by the Bahraini authorities, but what is more dangerous this time is that they are legalizing it under the pretexts of national security” He added “this as violations to personal privacy as well as the Constitution of Bahrain”.
BCHR urge the Bahraini Authorities to respect the human right values and principles in particular personal privacy, and are asked to:

- Call off this plan of legalizing infringement of personal privacy for security grounds.
- Stop targeting dissidents and human rights defenders and provide legalized cover to protect them instead of breaking their privacy in order to incriminate them.
- Respect its constitution and acceded international conventions