Danish FM admits to selling mass-surveillance technology to Saudi Arabia, UAE despite human rights concerns
Denmark's foreign minister has publically commented for the first time on a report on government approval for the sale of surveillance technology to Arab regimes, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
After months of silence, Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen gave a brief comment to Danish newspaper Information on the issue.
He claimed that his government agreed to the export of controversial surveillance systems to authoritarian Arab governments as it could help in the fight against terror organizations, such as the Islamic State group.
Danish authorities rely on a number of criteria when deciding on export licenses for surveillance technology. This includes considering whether the product could be used for "internal repression". Denmark's ministry of foreign affairs is responsible for the assessment.
"This area is not black and white and you can never give a hundred percent guarantee that there is no abuse. On the other hand, we also have an interest in fighting ISIL (Islamic State group)," Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said.
Although the Danish government claimed it has considered the human rights implications when exporting such technology to repressive Arab regimes, it admitted this was just one part of the overall assessment of the issue.
The ministry of foreign affairs refused to say how it based its assessment on the surveillance sale, the Danish daily added, but experts linked the issue said business interests and anti-terrorism efforts were the most likely considerations of the government.
"On the one hand, politicians are good at making it as if human rights and democracy are the top priority," said Helle Lykke Nielsen, associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark and expert on Gulf states.
But the core of Danish foreign policy is "security and financial considerations", she told Information.