ACRI: Stop the Use of Pegasus Spyware against Civilians

On past week an investigation by Calcalist revealed that the Israel Police were using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to hack into the phones of Israeli citizens, including anti-government protesters and activists. In response, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) argued that the use of Pegasus spyware and hacking into mobile phones of Israeli citizens, as in the darkest of oppressive dictatorships, is illegal and requires an immediate, full investigation.

The frontage of “Calcalist”, January 18, 2022

ACRI Attorneys Anne Suciu, Avner Pinchuk, and Gil Gan-Mor immediately appealed to the Attorney General, the Minister of Public Security, and the Police Commissioner and demanded that the Police’s use of Pegasus cease immediately. The appeal emphasized that the Police have no legal authority to use the spyware, and that it’s use for investigative purposes and criminal proceedings constitutes a serious violation of the fundamental rights to privacy, due process, dignity, and freedom of protest.

The appeal reads: “The use of Pegasus spyware to hack into mobile phones makes it possible to access personal and sensitive information from the past, in real-time, and in the future, including access to location data, content, and wiretapping–all of which have been restricted by explicit legislation and require court orders. In terms of the scope of this invasion of privacy, Pegasus spyware is just a step away from continuous tracking.”

About two months ago, on November 8, 2021, ACRI had appealed to the Attorney General following reports that NSO’s Pegasus spyware had been installed on the phones of Palestinian activists working for human rights and civil society organizations in the Occupied Territories. ACRI called on the Attorney General to examine whether the GSS or other government entities were behind the use of Pegasus to hack the phones of activists, and to order the immediate cessation of its use. ACRI Attorneys Gan-Mor and Roni Pelli emphasized that if the GSS or another government entity were behind the hacking of phones, it would constitute a serious violation of the law.

The appeal also states that the power of security institutions operating in the Occupied Territories is limited by international law and the Convention on Human Rights.

Attorneys Gan-Mor and Pelli said: “In the past year, evidence of the use of Pegasus spyware against human rights activists, government opponents, and journalists is growing, and the suspicion that Israel has joined countries that persecute human rights activists through dubious means of espionage should concern all who believe in the importance of human rights. It is hard not to suspect the fact that Palestinian human rights organizations are operating in the international arena to expose Israel’s human rights violations and against the continued Israeli occupation, is what has led to these extreme measures taken against these organizations. We expect that Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit will draw a clear, red line against these actions.”