Pegasus Project: Rwandan authorities chose thousands of activists, journalists and politicians to target with NSO spyware

New evidence uncovered by Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories has revealed that Rwandan authorities used NSO Group’s spyware to potentially target more than 3,500 activists, journalists and politicians. It was also used to infect the phone of Carine Kanimba, Paul Rusesabagina’s daughter, of Hotel Rwanda fame.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said:

“NSO Group cannot insist that its products are only used against criminals when more than 3,500 Rwandan activists, journalists, political opponents, foreign politicians, and diplomats have been selected as targets for NSO spyware.

NSO Group must immediately stop selling its equipment to countries with a track record of putting human right defenders and journalists under unlawful surveillance

Secretary General Agnès Callamard

“In the face of such irrefutable evidence, the company can no longer hide behind its claims when its spyware is clearly used for repression on a global scale.

“NSO Group must immediately stop selling its equipment to countries with a track record of putting human right defenders and journalists under unlawful surveillance.

“The surveillance industry is out of control. States must implement a global moratorium on the sale, transfer and use of surveillance equipment until a human rights-compliant regulatory framework is in place.”
Background

NSO Group’s spyware has been used to facilitate human rights violations around the world on a massive scale, according to a major investigation into the leak of 50,000 phone numbers of potential surveillance targets. These include heads of state, activists and journalists, including Jamal Khashoggi’s family.

The Pegasus Project is a ground-breaking collaboration by more than 80 journalists from 17 media organizations in 10 countries coordinated by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based media non-profit, with the technical support of Amnesty International, who conducted cutting- edge forensic tests on mobile phones to identify traces of the spyware.

The investigation today revealed that the Rwandan authorities have selected more than 3,500 phone numbers of activists, journalists, political opponents, foreign politicians, and diplomats to target with NSO Pegasus spyware since 2016.

The investigation also found that the phones of Paul Rusesabagina’s daughter, Carine Kanimba, who lives in Belgium, and several of his associates were targeted with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. Rusesabagina, of Hotel Rwanda fame, is currently detained in prison in Kigali where he faces life imprisonment on terrorism-related charges.

Israeli surveillance company NSO Group has been bankrolled by money from major private equity firms Novalpina Capital and Francisco Partners, with numerous investors behind them. Pension firms in the UK and US also have a stake in the rights abusing company.

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