South Africa: Statement – Stats Reveal That Cops Are Spying On 70,000+ Mobile Phones Every Year

Press Release

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Today R2K releases statistics from MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom that show that government accesses tens of thousands of people’s sensitive communications information every year using a loophole in South Africa’s surveillance policies.

These numbers show that, at a minimum, law enforcement agencies are spying on the communications of at least 70,000 phone numbers each year. As our analysis below shows, the actual number could be much higher.

Background to the requests

In May 2017, R2K asked MTN, Telkom, Vodacom and Cell C how many warrants they received in terms of section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act, in 2015, 2016 and 2017 (statement here).

These requests aimed to understand how a legal loophole has allowed surveillance operations to take place using the Criminal Procedures Act, rather than the RICA law.

RICA is meant to be South Africa’s primary surveillance law. It requires law enforcement and intelligence agencies to get the permission of a special judge, appointed by the president, to intercept a person’s communications. In order to apply for this warrant, they need to provide strong reasons because such interceptions threaten peoples’ right to privacy so much. But policymakers have wrongly assumed that the information about the communication (such as the identity of who you have communicated with, when, and your location) is less sensitive than the content of the communication.

This has led to a ‘loophole’ in our surveillance laws: section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act allows law enforcement officials to bypass the RICA judge to get access to get your phone records – who you have communicated with, when, and where. According to this law, any magistrate can issue a warrant that forces telecoms companies to give over a customer’s call records and metadata. Policymakers are wrong to assume this information is less sensitive or private than the contents of the communication: metadata can reveal as much, if not more, about a person’s contacts, interests and habits than what they say over the phone or in a text message. When a person’s communications information is handed over using the Criminal Procedures Act, they are never notified, even if the investigation is dropped or if they are found to be innocent.

In one recent case, former SAPS Crime Intelligence officer Paul Scheepers faces charges in the Western Cape for allegedly using this legal loophole to spy on the communications of various people who were not under legitimate investigation.

What Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom revealed

All four companies complied with R2K’s information requests. Their answers show that law enforcement get call records for a minimum of 70,960 phone numbers every year. Due to incomplete records (only Vodacom and Telkom could say how many phone numbers were contained in the warrants it received) the actual number is estimated to be much higher. Extrapolating from this data, Daily Maverick journalist Heidi Swart points out the estimated total could be as high as 194,820 phone numbers each year.

All together, these numbers tell a staggering story about surveillance practices in South Africa.

In 2016, MTN received 23,762 warrants for customers’ call records, while Vodacom got 18,594 warrants. Cell C got 6455 warrants and Telkom got 1,271. Due to the fact that in some cases, the same warrant will be sent to several service providers, it is not possible to add these numbers together to get the total number of warrants issued across all service providers, as this would result in ‘double counting’ of some warrants.

The most recent statistics from the RICA judge’s office show that in 2014/2015, the RICA judge issued 760 warrants for interception. At a minimum, in the same year magistrates issued 25,808 warrants in terms of s205 of the Criminal Procedures Act.

These statistics confirm for the first time that the vast majority of ‘authorised’ surveillance operations are happening outside of the RICA judge’s oversight, with no transparency or accountability.

R2K’s demands

It is clear that urgent reforms are needed for South Africa’s surveillance policies.

R2K has already pointed out that RICA does not do enough to protect people’s privacy — weak safeguards and a lack of transparency have enabled surveillance abuses. In fact, RICA already faces a legal challenge from investigative journalists whose phones were tapped by government agents.

Among the Right2Know Campaign’s demands for surveillance reform:

1) Call records must be given better protection

Metadata about your communication – information about who you contacted, when and where – must be given the same level of protection as the content of your communication. Interception of this information should only be authorised by a specially appointed judge with special insight on privacy protections and digital rights. The RICA judge is a specialist judge who must be specially positioned to weigh the interests of justice against the right to privacy. Magistrates and ordinary judges, on the other hand, may not be as sensitised to the privacy issues involved in deciding whether or not to release metadata records. This should not be authorized at the lower levels of our court system. The ‘section 205’ loophole should be closed immediately.

2) An end to mass storage of customers’ data

RICA requires telecommunications and internet service providers to store all users’ metadata (a detailed record of all messages and calls sent and received, all internet traffic, etc) for three to five years. This means even people who are not suspected of any crime are already being treated with suspicion.

3) An end to SIM card registration

SIM card registration violates privacy in that it limits the ability of citizens to communicate anonymously. It also facilitates the tracking and monitoring of all users by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

4) Greater transparency

We should not have to resort to legal action to get this information. Private companies should be publishing regular, detailed transparency reports about their role in interceptions, and the RICA judge must publish a much more detailed report, and it must be tabled in open Parliament.

Users must also be notified when their data has been intercepted. This is a legal requirement of many surveillance laws across the world. The current situation is ripe for abuse, as people who are targeted for surveillance have no way of knowing that their rights have been violated. Only under exceptional circumstances should the judge have the power to delay notifying a user that their data has been intercepted.

Time to end surveillance abuses!

This is no time for half measures and cosmetic reforms. Right2Know Campaign will not relent on challenging surveillance abuses. The people of South Africa can and will take back control of their privacy!

Source : Right2know

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Missing Burundi Journalist Yet to Be Found

Missing journalist,  Jean Bigirimana has been missing since  22 July, 2016 and there has not been any evidence that he is dead.

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His colleagues in Iwacu Press Group, recently marked the first anniversary of his disappearance.

Bigirimana’s wife and children are worried, they are at a lose as to what has happened to their breadwinner. Read more…..

Police Should Only Mount Necessary Road Blocks-Zimbabwe Home Affairs Minister

 Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs Minister and his Deputy have called on the Police to reduce the road blocks on the country’s roads.

They made this call while appearing before  a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development.

Chombo stated that his Ministry had recommended that the road blocks be reduced to four per province, beginning from the end of June.

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“We have told the Commissioner General of Police to reduce or remove all unnecessary roadblocks and leave the necessary ones,” Chombo said.

Towing the argument of his Boss, Chombo’s Deputy maintained that road blocks were only necessary to  curb crimes such as drugs and human trafficking.

“These are the core aspects of the police. These other things were being done on behalf of the Vehicle Inspection Department. There is no need for the police to check on fitness of vehicles and the route (for commuter omnibuses),” he told the parliamentary committee.

 

Zimbabwe: Linda Musarira, Others Nabbed Over Toy Gun

Police have denied access to medication to the three human rights activists who were arrested for an alleged illegal possession of a “fire arm” in central Harare on Wednesday.

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Linda Masarira, Zimbabwe National Students Union secretary general, Makomborero Haruzivishe, and the Young Voters’ Platform national programs coordinator, Desmond Sharukai, were arrested at a local restaurant where they were having a drink Wednesday night for allegedly possessing a gun.

Fellow activists, who witnessed the arrest of the three, said Linda and friends were apprehended after they had an altercation with the workers of the restaurant they were having “drinks” at.

“Linda had a misunderstanding with one of the workers at the restaurant and she pointed a toy gun at him,” said the activists who requested not to be named.

According to their attorney, Obey Shava, from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, one of the activists who are detained at Harare Central police station, Haruzivishe, was assaulted during the skirmishes at the scene of their arrest and sustained a “fractured” leg.

“The police have denied my clients access to medication after spending the whole day negotiating with them to have them taken to the hospital so that they can be attended to by doctors,” Shava told NewZimbabwe.com in Harare Thursday.

“They denied the request to have them sent to hospital for treatment despite serious and visible injuries,” he said.

Shava also said the police were yet to prefer charges against the three activists.

“This is an illegal detention which my clients continue to be under given the fact that it is now than 17 hours since they were arrested.

“If they are to charge them I suspect that they might charge them with assault and possible pointing a gun at someone, but they are yet to charge them,” said Shava.

Source : New Zimbabwe(London)

Uganda: Abuse of Social Media Forcing Govt to Filter Content, Says ICT Minister

Kabarole — The minister for Information and Communications Technology and National Guidance, Mr Frank Tumwebaze has said the increasing public abuse of social media is forcing the hands of government to regulate the use of the platforms.

Speaking at the 51 celebrations of the World’s Communication Day at Virika Parish, Fort Portal Diocese in Fort Portal Municipality on Sunday, Mr Tumwebaze said there is need to filter social media content that the public posts on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter.

“In other countries such as UK, everything that goes on air is first filtered but here in Uganda we have not reached that, but we need to be ambassadors of our information,” Mr Tumwebaze said.

He said some people have taken advantage of such platforms to terrorise the country and warned such users to desist and use the new innovations to transform the country.

Mr Tumwebaze who asked the public to be security conscious of cybercrimes, rallied Ugandans to register their SIM cards before August 30 as his ministry and Uganda Communication Commissions will switch off all subscribers who will fail to register or verify their SIM cards.

He warned that there won’t be any more extension after the three month’s grace period allowed for subscribers to register. Fort Portal Dioceses Bishop Robert Muhirwa, expressed concern on misuse of social media platforms to spread pornographic information to the public and asked the government regulate such content.

“Somebody used my name on Facebook and started asking people for money allegedly for helping needy people, and this is wrong. Government should help us” Bishop Muhirwa said.

To mark the World’s Communications Day, Pope Francis asked the media users to be objective and help their nations through spreading good news since bad news disorganises communities.

Why Day is celebrated

World Communications Day was declared by Pope Paul VI in 1967 as an annual celebration that encourages reflection on the opportunities and challenges that the modern means of social communication, including the press, motion pictures, radio, television and the internet, afford the Church to communicate messages of the Gospel.

This year’s World’s Communications Day was celebrated under the theme; “Communicating hope and trust in our time.”

Source : The Monitor(Kampala)

South Africa: Do Not Open Unknown Emails

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Pretoria — South Africans have been warned not to open any unknown emails and to urgently update their security software as a global cyber ransom attack spread on Friday.

Friday’s global cyber-attack has affected more than 200 000 victims in 150 countries and regions, Europol chief Rob Wainwright said on Sunday.

Hackers reportedly used a tool known as Eternal Blue and a malicious software called WannaCry to lock users’ computers and to demand a payment for the decryption.

The global cyber-attack has so far swept across more than 100 countries including the United States, Britain, Germany and China. Cyber security experts said it could be the biggest cyber-attack of its kind ever.

“Many of those victims were businesses, including large corporations. The global reach is unprecedented,” Wainwright said in an interview with Britain’s ITV.

Wainwright said he was concerned that the numbers of those affected would continue to rise when people returned to work on Monday morning.

“We’re in the face of an escalating threat, the numbers are going up,” he said, adding that the current attack was unprecedented.

Wainwright told ITV that the world faced an escalating threat, and there was concern about the level of potential attacks on Monday morning.

Wainwright warned the healthcare sector “in many countries” was particularly vulnerable, but that all organizations should ensure they prioritise cyber security and update their systems.

The virus took control of users’ files, demanding payments.

Russia and Britain were among the worst hit countries.

Dozens of Russian public institutions including the Bank of Russia said on Saturday that they have thwarted a massive cyber-attack and prevented vital data loss.

The central bank’s security and information protection division, responsible for monitoring computer attacks in the credit and financial sphere, has registered massive spread of malicious programs, but no instances of compromise were detected, said the Bank of Russia, quoted by Sputnik, a major media outlet in Russia

The Russian Interior Ministry and Health Ministry also said earlier in the day that they have “repelled” such attacks as the virus was promptly detected and localized, according to Russian news agencies.

Britain’s official emergency committee, known as Cobra, met in London on Saturday afternoon to discuss the cyber-attack that has caused widespread disruption to the country’s National Health Service (NHS).

Around 45 NHS organisations in England and Scotland, including hospitals, family doctor surgeries, and health services, were hit in the cyber-attack which prevented doctors, nurses and staff from accessing vital patient information.

However, Wainwright said Europol was working on the basis that the cyber-attack was carried out by criminals rather than terrorists, but noted that “remarkably few” payments had been made so far.

“Most people are not paying this, so there are not a lot of money being made with this by criminal organisations so far,” he said. – Xinhua/Sputnik

Source : S.A news

Uganda: Fresh Torture Accusations Leveled Against Uganda’s Police

Press Release

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Last week, Uganda’s police were – again – accused of torturing suspects to illicit confessions. First, defendants charged in the murder of police commander Andrew Kaweesi had visible injuries during their court appearance. They complained in court of being beaten in Nalufenya police station in Jinja, Eastern Uganda. Then, photos leaked of the hospitalized mayor of Kamwenge, who had horrific injuries including gaping wounds on his knees and ankles, which he said resulted from beatings by police who were investigating the same murder.

The ensuing police denials ring hallow.

Over the last 15 years, Human Rights Watch has interviewed hundreds of Ugandans who say they were tortured by police, specifically by a string of units which have changed name and location over the years, but whose brutality repeats itself over and over again. First, Operation Wembley in Clement Hill, then Violent Crimes Crack Unit in Kireka, then Rapid Response Unit, also in Kireka and now the Special Investigations Division, at times assisted by staff from the Flying Squad, in Nalufenya. Scores of victims across Uganda have described nearly identical treatment during interrogations, including beatings on the joints with batons over several days, at times while handcuffed in stress positions with their hands under their legs. All of this units have defied laws regulating arrest and detention with no consequences.

In December 2011, General Kayihura, the inspector general of the Uganda Police Force, disbanded Rapid Response Unit, in part due to human rights violations by its officers. But without investigations into those violations and prosecutions of those responsible, the very same officers have continued to commit abuses as part of a new unit, with a new name. The lack of investigations and failure to remove abusive officers from police ranks, despites decades of allegations, only reinforces the problem – that Uganda’s police too often rely on forced confessions. They beat suspects to bypass the tough work of carefully investigating crimes and gathering credible evidence that could stand up to scrutiny in court.

Uganda’s police leadership need to stop facile denials that torture festers in Uganda’s police cells, and particularly nowadays, in Nalufenya. Police should take suspects’ allegations seriously, investigate officers for torture and mistreatment, and work with prosecutors to finally bring charges under Uganda’s never-used Anti Torture Act. Officers who commit torture should be removed from police ranks. Police shouldn’t be allowed to commit crimes while seeking to fight them.

Maria Burnett is the Director, East Africa and the Horn.

Source : Human Rights Watch(Washington DC)

Uganda: As Museveni Critic Remains in Jail, Govt On the Spot Over Rights

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As the magistrate court at Buganda Road resumes hearing of cases against Stella Nyanzi on Monday April 25, focus is likely to extend to the declining state of fundamental rights in Uganda and that of the Constitutional Court.

Its wheels have yet to move on a petition filed nearly 15 months ago challenging sections of the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) against which she is being charged for harassing and offending President Yoweri Museveni.

Dr Nyanzi, a social researcher at Makerere University was kidnapped by unknown people on the night of Friday, April 7, around the headquarters of the Internal Security Organisation.

She was addressing a Rotary fellowship at a nearby hotel.

A day later Police acknowledged it was holding her.

When she appeared in court on Monday April 10, Dr Nyanzi’s charge sheet indicated two counts of cyber harassment and offensive communication contrary to Sections 24 (1 and 2a) and 25 of the CMA enacted in 2011, that had been drawn two weeks earlier on March 23 and sanctioned by the Director of Public Prosecutions on March 27, weeks before her arrest.

The court remanded her to Luzira Maximum Security Prison for 14 days.

Section 25 in particular, which is about offensive communication, is a subject of a constitutional petition filed on February 3, 2016 by Andrew Karamagi and Robert Shaka.

The charges against Dr Nyanzi were first drawn on March 23, 2017 and sanctioned four days later. They followed hours-long interrogation on March 7, 2016.

Dr Nyanzi, who uses expletives, allegedly insulted Museveni on her Facebook page by calling him “a pair of buttocks” on January 28.

But a review of her timeline shows she posted nothing at all on that said day.

Besides being the butt of all jokes, the charges have continued to draw widespread condemnation across the country and beyond its borders.

Most recently on Wednesday, April 19, Amnesty International demanded her immediate release, saying she was a “prisoner of conscience, held solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression.”

“Her continued detention and prosecution violate Uganda’s obligations under the country’s constitution and international human rights law regarding the rights to liberty and freedom of expression,” read its call to action; a mechanism through which it mobilises global attention.

That Dr Nyanzi and her lawyers were surprised with a government application to subject her to a sanity test after her first appearance in court is only helping attract more scrutiny and interest on the trial and its associated human rights issues.

Source : The East African

South Africa: Police Minister to Address Media On Decision to Withdraw Ntlemeza Appeal

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Police Minister Fikile Mbalula is expected to address the media on Thursday on his decision to withdraw his application to appeal the ruling of the High Court in Pretoria to set aside the appointment of Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza.

In March the court found that when then police minister Nathi Nhleko appointed him head of the elite police unit he had ignored two court judgments which found that Ntlemeza lacked integrity and honesty.

The court found that the findings in both judgments constituted “direct evidence” that Ntlemeza lacked the requisite honesty, integrity and conscientiousness to hold public office.

Ntlemeza, however, continued with his application for leave to appeal the judgment.

On Wednesday afternoon, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria dismissed his application and ordered him to vacate his office with immediate effect.

The matter was brought to the High Court by the Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom under Law.

Source : News24wire

South Africa: Ntlemeza Ruling a Boost for Rule of Law – Helen Suzman Foundation

The court ruling against Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza supports the principle that state administration should be rational and within the confines of the law, Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation said on Thursday.

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“In this exceptional case, the court found that the applicant had shown that were Major-General Ntlemeza to remain in office, the public would suffer irreparable harm,” the organizations said in a joint statement.

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The High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday denied Ntlemeza leave to appeal a previous judgment declaring his appointment unlawful and invalid and setting it aside. The court ordered him to vacate his office immediately.

On March 17, the same court found that former police minister Nathi Nhleko had ignored two court judgments which found that Ntlemeza lacked “integrity and honour” when he appointed him head of the elite police unit.

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula on Wednesday said he had withdrawn the ministry’s application to appeal the March judgment.

He is expected to brief the media on his decision on Thursday.

Source : News24wire