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July 10, 2013 – OTTAWA – An Israeli civil rights group is threatening a legal fight against two Canadian web-hosting services that counted Syrian government ministries among their clients.
But both companies say they fully comply with Canadian law and the threat is based on out-of-date information.
Shurat HaDin sent a letter to iWeb Technologies and Rackforce Hosting on Wednesday warning them they could take a financial hit unless they cut all ties with the Syrian regime.
The group is using a new legal tool that allows Canadian victims of terror to sue foreign governments listed as state sponsors of terror – a list that includes Syria.
“By providing aid to the Syrian regime, Rackforce Hosting Inc.and iWeb Technologies Inc. expose themselves and their directors to civil litigation and to asset seizure by creditors holding unenforced judgements against the Syrian Arab Republic,” the letter states.
Both companies were named in a 2011 Munk School’s Citizen Lab report into the web hosting of Hezbollah and Syrian government entities in Canada.
That research found that – at the time – 17 Syrian government sites were hosted through Canadian providers, including the ministries of culture, transport, and electricity, as well as the official site of the capital, Damascus.
American and German companies were found to be doing the same.
Syria’s Addounia TV station, closely associated with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, also had sites hosted in Canada.
In 2011, the Conservative government imposed sanctions against doing business with a number of Syrian entities and individuals, including Addounia TV.
Shurat HaDin’s Canadian representative, Laya Witty, said the tech companies could be caught up in planned legal action against the Syrian regime unless they stop taking its business.
The Israeli-based organization bills itself as the world leader in litigating against terror groups and their state sponsors.
Still, the Citizen Lab report admits the legal implications of hosting the web presence of those entities is unclear and in a legislative grey zone.
Witty said the goal is to ensure there are consequences – even if it’s just legal fees – to doing business with those regimes.
In a statement, iWeb said it worked diligently to comply with all Canadians laws.
“iWeb has no direct involvement with any of the Syrian entities mentioned in the report and our contract with resellers impose that they comply with Canadian law.”
But it acknowledged two of its customers who resell server space may have recently done business with one sanctioned entity. They requested they suspend dealings and are investigating.
Rackforce’s chief information officer, Randall Robinson, said Wednesday the company takes a hard line against hosting sanctioned entities and has not had any business from the entities cited in the Citizen Lab report since September 2011.
“To threaten legal action for a matter that was resolved two years ago is damaging to RackForce’s good reputation and throws into question the validity of Shurat HaDin’s current activities and methods,” he said in an e-mail.