Human rights groups urge EU to ban Israeli NSO spyware

12/8/2021 3:39 PM
A woman walks by the building entrance of Israeli cyber company NSO Group

Human rights groups want the European Union to impose global sanctions on NSO Group and 'take action' to stop the sale of the Israeli company's Pegasus spyware technology.

The letter, signed by 86 organisations including Amnesty International, Digital Rights Foundation and Human Rights Watch, urged the EU to take "serious and effective measures" against NSO "including the designation of the entity under the EU’s global human rights sanctions regime."

It comes following recent revelations that Pegasus Spyware was used to hack the devices of six Palestinian human rights activists – the latest in a long line of reports about human rights abuses linked to the use of NSO technology.

Pegasus Project

In July, the Pegasus Project – a collaboration of over 80 journalists from 16 media organisations - exposed how the software infiltrated the devices of activists, journalists and opposition figures.

NSO has denied the allegations in the Pegasus Project reporting.

"The systemic targeting of Palestinian human rights defenders with Pegasus provides further evidence of a pattern of human rights abuses facilitated by NSO Group through spyware sales to governments that use the technology to persecute civil society and social movements in many countries around the world," read the letter.

The EU’s global human rights sanctions regime gives it powers to target entities responsible for violations or abuses that are “violations or abuses that are of serious concern as regards to the objectives of the common foreign and security policy, including violations or abuses of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, or of freedom of opinion and expression.”

"These rights have been repeatedly violated using NSO technology, and, as highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, the use of spyware by abusive governments can also facilitate extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings, or enforced disappearance of persons," said the letter.  

The US Department of Commerce last month added NSO group to its trade restriction list.

"The EU should follow suit and urgently put NSO on its global sanction list and take all appropriate action to prohibit the sale, transfer, export, import and use of NSO Group technologies, as well as the provision of services that support NSO Group's products, until adequate human rights safeguards are in place," added the letter.

A couple of weeks ago Apple said it was suing NSO and its parent company OSY Technologies for allegedly targeting iPhone users.