Amnesty onderneemt gerechtelijke stappen tegen exportlicentie Israëlisch spywarebedrijf

Amnesty onderneemt gerechtelijke stappen tegen exportlicentie Israëlisch spywarebedrijf


Amnesty International zal via gerechtelijke stappen het Israëlische Ministerie van Defensie trachten te dwingen de exportlicentie van spywarebedrijf NSO Group in te trekken. De spionagesoftware van deze Israëlische onderneming wordt wereldwijd ingezet om mensenrechtenverdedigers te onderdrukken.

Morgen dienen een 50-tal leden van Amnesty International Israël en andere mensenrechtensympathisanten een verzoekschrift in bij de Districtsrechtbank van Tel Aviv. Het document maakt duidelijk hoe het Ministerie van Defensie mensenrechten in gevaar brengt door toe te laten dat NSO zijn producten blijft exporteren. In augustus 2018 was een Amnesty-medewerker het doelwit van spionagesoftware van de NSO Group genaamd Pegasus. Hetzelfde product is gelinkt aan aanvallen op activisten en journalisten in Saudi-Arabië, Mexico en de Verenigde Arabische Emiraten.

NSO Groep verkoopt zijn producten aan overheden die ze vervolgens inzetten om activisten en critici op te sporen en te onderdrukken. De aanval op Amnesty was het zoveelste voorbeeld daarvan,” zegt Danna Ingleton, vicedirecteur van Amnesty Tech.

Het Israëlisch Ministerie van Defensie negeert het groeiende bewijs dat NSO Group linkt aan aanvallen op mensenrechtenverdedigers. Zolang producten zoals Pegasus gepromoot worden zonder degelijke controle en toezicht, zijn de rechten en de veiligheid van Amnesty-medewerkers, andere activisten, journalisten en dissidenten wereldwijd in gevaar.”

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The legal action is supported by Amnesty International as part of a joint project with New York University (NYU) School of Law’s Bernstein Institute for Human Rights and Global Justice Clinic, which 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 license and stop it profiting from state-sponsored repression.”

A global web of surveillance 

Research has documented the use of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to target a wide swathe of civil society, including at least 24 human rights defenders, journalists and parliamentarians in Mexico; an Amnesty International employee; Saudi activists Omar Abdulaziz, Yahya Assiri, Ghanem Al-Masarir; award-winning Emirati human rights campaigner Ahmed Mansoor; and allegedly, murdered Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

In August 2018, an Amnesty International staff member received a message which contained a link purporting to be about a protest outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington. It was sent at a time when Amnesty International was campaigning for the release of Saudi women human rights activists. If clicked, the link would have secretly installed Pegasus software, allowing the sender to obtain near-total control of the phone. 

NSO safeguards “ineffective”

NSO Group claims it helps governments fight terrorism and crime, but it has failed to rebut mounting evidence linking its products to attacks on human rights defenders. Although the company says it undertakes a rigorous review before sales of its products, these claims lack detail and, considering the number of attacks on civil society, appear to have been ineffective in numerous cases.

NSO Group has repeatedly denied, but not credibly addressed, the accounts that its Pegasus spyware platform has been misused to target human rights defenders. Nor has it accepted responsibility or provided remedies for the multiple reported instances of misuse of its surveillance technologies. The company 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. Without effective oversight based on proper regulation of the sale of commercial spyware, and absent adequate action by NSO Group to prevent, mitigate, and remedy misuse of its technology, civil society actors remain vulnerable to unlawful surveillance simply for exercising their human rights.  

It’s time to stop the use of NSO Group’s tools to infiltrate, intimidate and silence civil society. We are determined to hold NSO Group to account for its role in attacks on human rights defenders,” said Danna Ingleton.


Amnesty International contacted NSO Group in late 2018 to address the issues set out above. Their full statement is here:

NSO Group develops cyber technology to allow government agencies to identify and disrupt terrorist and criminal plots. Our product is intended to be used exclusively for the investigation and prevention of crime and terrorism. Any use of our technology that is counter to that purpose is a violation of our policies, legal contracts, and the values that we stand for as a company. If an allegation arises concerning a violation of our contract or inappropriate use of our technology, as Amnesty has offered, we investigate the issue and take appropriate action based on those findings. We welcome any specific information that can assist us in further investigating of the matter.”

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