More damning information has been uncovered about the sale of Israeli technology to Bangladesh. The Asian country has no diplomatic relations with Israel and trade with the Zionist state is prohibited until it ends its military occupation of Palestine.
Yet business between the two countries has been carried out under a cloak of secrecy. The latest detail to emerge is the sale of phone-hacking technology to Bangladesh's notorious paramilitary unit the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). The elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism forces have faced allegations from rights groups of carrying out extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torturing civilians and journalists.
Details of the sale of Israeli phone-hacking technology by the firm Cellebrite was revealed as part of documents filed by a human rights lawyer to an Israeli court on Monday, Haaretz reported.
The documents were submitted by lawyer Eitay Mack, an Israeli lawyer who in the past has led petitions and cases against the sale of Israeli weapons to governments accused of committing genocide and ethnic cleansing. In 2017, Mack led a petition addressed to the Israeli High Court calling for the suspension of arms trade with Myanmar. In the same year Mack, along with 54 Israeli activists, also filed a petition with the Israeli High Court seeking an investigation into Israel's exporting of arms to South Sudan, which had been ravaged by civil war.
Documents filed by Mack on Monday were part of an attempt to get the Defence Ministry to halt the Israeli tech firm's exports to Bangladesh and explain their failure to do so in light of reports regarding the misuse of technology developed by the Cellebrite. The Israeli firm's UFED (Universal Forensic Extraction Device) system allows authorities to unlock and access the data of any phone in their possession.
The documents followed another filing, which the Defence Ministry did not respond to, that sought to halt the sale of technology from Celebrity and PicSix to Bangladesh after an Al Jazeera investigation revealed that Dakha's army had bought phone hacking capabilities from the Israeli firm.
Documents confirming the sale of Cellebrite technology by RAB were presented to the court. Though the phone-hacking technology is intended for law enforcement agencies and is sold across the world, critics have long slammed the company for selling its wares to states with poor human rights records, from Indonesia to Venezuela, to Saudi Arabia and Belarus.
"This is a very serious 'error' by the Defense Ministry," Mack and a long list of human rights activists are reported saying in the Haaretz. "As Israel does not have diplomatic ties with Bangladesh and due to the repeated human rights infringements and wide-spread corruption in the country, there is no way for the ministry to actually oversee and control the use that is made of the Israeli systems in this country."
"How is it possible that despite promises to 'be sensitive and take into account human rights issues', the ministry's director-general allows the sale of technology which breaks into phones to a security forces unit that is accused of torturing their victims by drilling holes into their head with an electric drill," Mack asked in the filing.
Mack also cited reports by human rights about RAB's activities. "According to reports by Odhikar and OMCT, human rights groups in Bangladesh, the latter which represents over 200 anti-torture groups across the world, from July 2019, in recent years the Bangladesh security forces have been accused of using drills to torture their victims, beatings, long detentions in subhuman conditions and even hanging people upside down," Mack wrote in the court filing.