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Amnesty demands Israel prevent NSO from exporting spyware to rights abusers

January 15, 2020 at 1:08 pm

Amnesty International has urged Israeli authorities to prevent notorious tech company NSO Group from exporting spyware products to human rights abusers, ahead of a court case starting tomorrow.

A judge at Tel Aviv District Court will tomorrow begin hearing arguments as to why the Israeli government should restrict the activities of NSO Group.

As noted by Amnesty, “the firm’s Pegasus software has been used to target journalists and activists across the globe – including in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.”

“NSO continues to profit from its spyware being used to commit abuses against activists across the world and the Israeli government has stood by and watched it happen,” said Danna Ingleton, deputy director of Amnesty Tech.

READ: Israel army chief censor in talks to join notorious spyware firm NSO

“The best way to stop NSO’s powerful spyware products reaching repressive governments is to revoke the company’s export license, and that is exactly what this legal case seeks to do.”

According to the global rights group’s press release, “the legal action is being brought by approximately 30 members and supporters of Amnesty International Israel and others from the human rights community.”

In addition, the case is being “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.”

Sukti Dhital, executive director of the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights, said: “In authorizing exports by NSO –a company that has sold its invasive software products to governments known to abuse human rights—the [Israeli] Ministry of Defence has failed in its human rights law obligations to protect the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of opinion.”

READ: Israel’s NSO staff sue Facebook for blocking private accounts

Just last week, the Israeli government had asked the judge to dismiss the case, or, if it proceeds, to impose a reporting gag order on the grounds of “national security”.

“It is overwhelmingly in the public interest and for press freedom that this case is heard in open court. The Ministry of Defence must not be allowed to hide behind a veil of secrecy when it comes to human rights abuses,” said Danna Ingleton.

Amnesty argues that “states have an obligation to protect human rights in the context of corporate activities, including through regulation and oversight.”

“All companies have a responsibility to respect human rights throughout their operations and supply chains. This means they must avoid causing or contributing to human rights abuses and take steps to identify and address human rights risks in their operations,” the organisation added.