President Cyril Ramaphosa is among 14 heads of state and government selected as people of interest by clients of spyware company NSO Group. 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.
The list includes the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Iraq’s Barham Salih, Egypt’s Mostafa Madbouly, Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Morocco’s Saad-Eddine El Ohtmani, Lebanon’s Saad Hariri, Uganda’s Ruhakana Rugunda, and Belgium’s Charles Michel. The list contained phone numbers for more than 600 government officials and politicians from 34 countries.
RAMAPHOSA, ‘A PERSON OF INTEREST’
In a statement, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnes Callamard said the unprecedented revelation that the phones of at least fourteen heads of state may have been hacked using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware should send a chill down the spine of world leaders.
“We have long known that activists and journalists are targets of this surreptitious phone-hacking – but it’s clear that even those at the highest levels of power cannot escape the sinister spread of NSO’s spyware. NSO Group can no longer hide behind the claim that its spyware is only used to fight crime – it appears that Pegasus is also the spyware of choice for those wanting to snoop on foreign governments.
“The damning revelations of the Pegasus Project underscore the urgent need for strong regulation to reign in a wild west surveillance industry. States must implement a global moratorium on the export, sale, transfer and use of surveillance equipment until a robust human rights-compliant regulatory framework is in place.”
According to Amnesty International, the NSO Group insists that its spyware is only intended for use against terrorists and serious criminals and has reiterated that it will “investigate all credible claims of misuse” and “take strong action” where such allegations prove correct.
Amnesty International further said that the NSO Group must immediately stop selling its equipment to countries with a track record of putting human right defenders and journalists under unlawful surveillance.