Although I have been always suspicious of government surveillance, I have never expected a private telecommunication company will act as an agent of the government to seek hacking techniques on its behalf. In many occasions I have encountered with individuals complaining about their communication being intercepted. But without any proof, it has never become part of my priorities. Of course, there are always so many issues that make me busy in sorting out when it comes to human rights issues. From freedom of expression and illegal detentions to rights of women, Somaliland has many human rights problems human rights defender should worry about.
Recent revelation of Wikileaks shows Dahabshiil owned telecommunication company, Somtel, contacting with hacking group calledHackingTeam to buy technology “designed to attack, infect and monitor target PCs and Smart-phones in a stealth way, including its location,” HachingTeam says in an email addressed to Somtel, as disclosed by Wikileaks . By further explaining the product, HackingTeam adds “once a target is infected, RCS allows you to access a variety of information, including: Skype traffic (VoIP, chat), keystrokes (all Unicode languages), mails, messages, target positioning, files, screenshots, microphone eavesdropped data, camera snapshots, etc.”
Neither the government nor Somtel has so far made any comment regarding the Wikileaks exposure.
Article 30 of Somaliland constitution reads as following; “no person’s private written communication, postal letters, or telecommunications shall be interfered with except in matters in which the law allows their investigation, tracing or listening in and a reasoned order from a judge has been obtained.”
Violation of a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution of the country is a serious matter. What makes worse is the fact that private telecommunication company is aiding and abetting the government to violate the constitution. Moreover, Dahabshiil is also financial company. If it has such a deep connection with the government as far as acting as an agent for the state, the question is what sort of access the government has on the financial records of the people?
As noted above, this is not unique and isolated incident. I have observed many occasions telecommunication company (not necessarily Somtel) gave the authorities (specifically the law enforcement agencies) phone records without court warrant. In these events I witnessed the customers in question were neither informed nor asked consent.
It is imperative telecommunication companies to recognize and respect the fundamental freedoms and rights enshrined in the constitution of the Republic of Somaliland.
There should be an independent investigation to examine whether Somtel and the government acquired the technology and if used, the extent of the suffering of the privacy of the citizens. It is also imperative to explain the relationship between the government and Dahabshiil (Somtel).
This view is my own and I do not express in representing any entity.
Guleid Ahmed Jama
Human rights lawyer