Nov 01

No shelter: the harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union

Date: Tuesday November 22nd 2016
Time: 6.00pm-7.30pm
Venue: Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London

  • Chris Bryant MP
  • Dr John Heathershaw, Associate Professor in International Relations, University of Exeter
  • Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre
  • Further speakers TBC

Chair: Rt Hon. Fiona Mactaggart MP, Member of the Intelligence and Security Committee

This seminar will examine the experiences of a wide range of civil society activists, opposition politicians, religious leaders and others who have had to leave their former Soviet country of origin due to the risk of persecution at home, but who are unable to escape the pressures of their country’s security services, even in exile. It will discuss the experiences of activists being monitored, followed, harassed, attacked, kidnapped or killed across the former Soviet Union and beyond.

The seminar will analyse CIS security service cooperation, when the intelligence service of the country where an activist is seeking shelter either formally collaborates with or turns a blind eye to the activities of the intelligence services of the activist’s home country in tracking, harassing, attacking or kidnapping them. There will be a particular focus on the activities of the security services of Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, against whom there are strong allegations of involvement in a number of murders, attacks, kidnappings and threats against activists and opponents outside their borders. It will also look at the countries where activists in exile seem to be most at risk of harassment, noting in particular the situations in Russia and Turkey.

The No Shelter seminar will explore issues around the monitoring of activists’ emails, phone calls and other forms communication by intelligence services and the practical challenges human rights defenders and others face in keeping their information secure from prying eyes. It may also examine the use of malware and other attacks on activists’ emails, websites and bank accounts.

The seminar will also debate the impact of the United States ‘Spectrum’ surveillance system and the current UK debate about the Investigatory Powers Bill on the narratives used by authoritarian regimes in their own surveillance of opposition figures and human rights activists. The seminar may also look at the role played by Western companies in exporting technology and consultancy services that help develop the surveillance systems of authoritarian regimes, or that can be used for torture and ill-treatment. It may also explore the extent to which Western intelligence cooperates with intelligence agencies from the former Soviet Union involved in such practices.

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