By Sharon Mckenzie-
Amnesty international has filed a legal petition today at the District Court of Tel Aviv, alleging that the Israeli MoD has put human rights at risk by allowing NSO to export its products.
Amnesty International says the Israeli Ministry of Defence to court to demand it revokes the export licence of its spyware manufacturer which it allegedly sells to countries like Saudia Arabia and UAE.
It cites a growing evidence of the use of a particularly invasive piece of NSO Group spyware called “Pegasus” in targeting activists globally. They include at least 24 human rights defenders, journalists and parliamentarians in Mexico.
Amnesty says other victims of its targets includes one of its employees; Saudi activists Omar Abdulaziz, Yahya Assiri, Ghanem Al-Masarir; award-winning Emirati human rights campaigner Ahmed Mansoor; and, , murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
An insider from Amnesty International told The Eye Of Media.Com that the British and the U.S government need to ”take a stand in confronting dangerous practises of this kind, even when coming from their political friends Israel.
Amnesty said one of its staff members was targeted by the cyber sofware when received a WhatsApp message in Arabic with a link claiming to be about a protest outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington DC,. It was sent when Amnesty was campaigning for the release of jailed Saudi women activists. The aim of the clicked, Pegasus software , according to Amnesty, was to infect the Amnesty employee’s phone, taking near-total control of the cameras and microphone, tracking keystrokes and accessing contact lists.
Danna Ingleton, Deputy Director of Amnesty Tech, who has provided supporting testimony for the Tel Aviv legal case, said:
“The Israeli MoD has ignored mounting evidence linking NSO Group to attacks on human rights defenders, which is why we are supporting this case.
“NSO Group sells its products to governments who are known for outrageous human rights abuses, giving them the tools to track activists and critics.
“As long as products like Pegasus are marketed without proper control and oversight, the rights and safety of Amnesty International’s staff and that of other activists, journalists and dissidents around the world is at risk.”
The legal action is supported by Amnesty as part of a joint project with New York University (NYU) School of Law’s Bernstein Institute for Human Rights and Global Justice Clinic. It seeks justice for human rights defenders targeted with malicious software. Faculty Director Margaret Satterthwaite said:
“The targeting of human rights defenders for their work, using invasive digital surveillance tools, is not permissible under human rights law.
“Without stronger legal checks, the spyware industry enables governments to trample on the rights to privacy, freedom of opinion and expression.
“The Israeli government needs to revoke NSO Group’s export licence and stop it profiting from state-sponsored repression.”
NSO safeguards ineffective
NSO Group claims it helps governments fight terrorism and crime, but has not credibly addressed mounting evidence linking the Pegasus spyware platform to attacks on human rights defenders. Although the company says it undertakes a rigorous review before sales of its products, it has failed to disclose its due diligence process except for veiled references to the existence of an ethics committee. It remains unclear what factors are taken into consideration before the company sells an inherently invasive product like Pegasus.“
The NSO Group says its development of cyber technology is to investigate and prevent crime and terrorism. They argue that their cyber technology allows government agencies to identify and disrupt terrorist and criminal plots.