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On January 18, 2020, 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, 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.
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. We 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 Gil 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.
Pegasus software severely violates fundamental rights, including freedom of association and freedom of expression. It does not stand the test of proportionality as it allows for the collection of wide-ranging information and constitutes a violation of privacy, not only for the individual under surveillance but for all those who are in contact with the individual. The intensity of Pegasus spyware even makes wiretapping pale in comparison. The monitoring of human rights activists is particularly severe.
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 Gil Gan-Mor and Roni 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 Mandelblit will draw a clear, red line against these actions.