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memri
November 27, 2019 No.
8381

Syrian Journalist And Human Rights Activist Urges Google To Remove From Google Play An App Serving The Syrian Regime Which Commits War Crimes

Writing in the Syrian opposition weekly Anab Baladi, journalist and human rights activist Mansour Al-'Omari noted that an app called Smart Window[1] that is available on Google Play is publishing advertisements on behalf of Syrian regime institutions, such as Syria's Air Force Intelligence, that are guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Google, he stated, is therefore abetting these war crimes, both in violation of its own stated policy prohibiting apps that promote violence and in violation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Since Google does not vet apps it offers, he added, users should flag this app and demand its removal from Google Play.

It should be noted that Syrian Air Force Intelligence has been subject to U.S. and European sanctions since 2011, because of its involvement in dispersing demonstrations with live weapons.[2]


Mansour Al-'Omari (Source: Masrawy.com, March 16, 2017)

The following are excerpts from Al-'Omari's article, as posted on the Anab Baladi website.[3]

"Google Play has a [Syrian] application called Smart Window, which supports [Syrian] Airforce Intelligence. [The app] displays announcements on behalf of the institutions of the Assad regime, including Air Force Intelligence, and thereby takes part in supporting this [state] apparatus that tortures and kills Syrian [citizens].


The Smart Window app on Google Play (Source: play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=smartwindow.alef.tech&hl=en_US)

"The app's Facebook page posted the following advertisement, [for example]: 'The Armed Forces General Headquarters has announced that it is recruiting a new class of young women interested in volunteering for the Airforce Intelligence Directorate.'


Ad by the Syrian Airforce Intelligence Directorate on the Smart Window app (ennabaladi.net, November 17, 2019)

"By circulating this announcement, the application assists Airforce Intelligence, which commits war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the torture and killing of detainees and the systematic disappearing [of citizens].

"Google does not vet apps uploaded to the Play Store, [so] it is unclear to what extent they comply with its stated policy. According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which are not [legally] binding, companies should carry out human rights due diligence, including by assessing actual and potential human rights impacts, integrating and acting upon the findings, tracking responses, and communicating how impacts are addressed...

"Google is therefore guilty of assisting institutions that commit crimes against humanity...

"The app also promotes several Syrian enterprises that commit theft and [other] crimes, owned by the thief Rami Makhlouf[4] and his business networks, including the International School of Choueifat in Damascus. [It also promotes] the Syrian Trust for Development, which belongs to [Bashar Al-Assad's wife], the criminal Asma Al-Assad; the [Syrian] Interior Ministry, which commits war crimes and crimes against humanity; the Damascus International Fair; Syria Telecom; [the Syrian mobile network provider] Syriatel; the [Syrian] Army General Headquarters' court system, and the officers' wing of the [Army's] human resources department.  The app also directly cooperates with some of these government institutions, as evident from a notice it posted thanking one of the employees of [Syria's] state water authority for his direct cooperation with the app.


Smart Window notice thanking employee of Syria's state water authority (ennabaladi.net, November 17, 2019)

"Google relies mainly on private users to report any content that violates its principles. Its policy prohibits apps that support violence or any other dangerous activity. Therefore, it is important to report this app to Google and demand that it stop [the app's] activity, due to its role in assisting institutions that commit war crimes and are under U.S. sanctions."

 

[1] Play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=smartwindow.alef.tech&hl=en_US. The Smart Window application publishes ads and information on job opportunities, vocational training courses, and fairs and exhibitions in Syria, including announcements by government institutions and information on various government services.

[2] Treasury.gov, May 18, 2011; Europarl.europa.eu, May 30, 2017.

[3] Enabbaladi.net, November 17, 2019.

[4] Rami Makhlouf, a Syrian businessman and a cousin and close associate of President Bashar Al-Assad, is considered to be one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Syria.