NSO Group spyware plays a role in massive human rights violations around the world, according to a major investigation into the leakage of 50,000 phone numbers of people who are potential surveillance targets. These include heads of state, activists and journalists, as well as the family of Jamal Khashoggi.
Pegasus background project
The Pegasus project is a pioneering collaboration of more than 80 journalists in 20 countries, coordinated by Forbidden stories, a non-profit organization based in Paris. Amnesty International provided technical support through forensic tests run on cell phones to identify traces of spyware.
Surveillance in Belgium
It was announced yesterday that since 2016, Rwandan authorities have hacked the phones of more than 3,500 activists, journalists, political opponents, foreign politicians and diplomats using NSO’s Pegasus software. Some of the phones belonged to Paul Rusesabagina’s daughter, Carine Kanimba, and her relatives. Kanimba lives in Belgium.
Paul Rusesabagina rose to fame for the movie Hotel Rwanda, which is based on events in his own life during the Rwandan genocide. He is currently being held in the Rwandan capital Kigali and faces a life sentence for terrorism.
Pension funds also reap benefits
Israeli surveillance technology firm NSO Group is funded by leading private equity firms Novalpina Capital and Francisco Partners, which have many investors behind them. Pension funds in the UK and US also have interests in the company that violates human rights.
“Due to the overwhelming burden of proof, the NSO Group cannot claim that its products are only used against criminals,” said Amnesty General Secretary Agnès Callamard. The company must immediately stop selling its equipment to countries known to illegally spy on human rights defenders and journalists. The surveillance sector goes well beyond its scope. States must immediately impose a global moratorium on the export, sale and use of surveillance equipment until a human rights-compliant regulatory framework is in place.