Human rights activists, journalists, politicians, and lawyers around the world have been targeted by authoritarian governments using hacking software Pegasus sold by NSO Group. This was revealed in an investigation by 17 international news publications. Among those spied on are hundreds of business executives, religious figures, academics, NGO employees, trade union officials and government officials, including ministers, presidents, and prime ministers. The data also lists the number of more than 180 journalists, including reporters and executives from major newspapers. Analysis of the leaked data, however, identified at least 10 governments involved: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India and the United Arab Emirates. The investigation also suggests that Viktor Orban's Hungarian government appears to have used NSO technology as part of his war on the media, targeting investigative journalists in the country. The investigation also revealed that the NSO spying tool was used by Saudi Arabia to target the phones of close associates of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Turkish prosecutor investigating his death was also allegedly targeted.
In the light of all this, as President of a civil society organization that defends human rights and fights against all forms of impunity, I consider what happened, as well as the statements made by the President of the EC, Ursula von der Leyen, to be dangerous and unacceptable. In view of both the seriousness and the implications of this affair, I believe that maximum clarity is needed and, should the facts be confirmed, I call on the European Commission to apply the global human rights sanctions regime to the countries involved.