Help Us Fight Global Surveillance: Challenge to NSO Pegasus Spyware

by Pegasus Claimant Group

Help Us Fight Global Surveillance: Challenge to NSO Pegasus Spyware

by Pegasus Claimant Group
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We are raising money to fund a legal challenge we have set in motion against unlawful phone hacking and surveillance in the UK by foreign states using Pegasus spyware. 

Pegasus spyware, sold by an Israeli surveillance company called NSO Group, has been (mis)used to target world leaders, human rights activists and journalists. We are pursuing litigation as a means of redress for those who have been unlawfully targeted in this way. Following a 6-month investigation by Bindmans LLP and the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), three UK-based individuals have formally put NSO Group, the UAE and Saudi Arabia on notice of their intention to issue a legal claim against them in the High Court of England & Wales for the hacking of their phones.   

“It's bad enough to realise that my device was hacked and that I was spied upon, but to realise that the party responsible for such a heinous intrusion on my privacy was a foreign authoritarian government accused of gross human rights abuses and violations, is simply horrendous.  If nothing else, one's privacy is sacrosanct, particularly when engaged in work that affects the lives of others, and the UAE government violated that leaving me to wonder who and how others were impacted as a result.”

Anas Altikriti 

The three claimants are part of a larger group of further potential claimants who may also have been targeted, including a member of the House of Lords, human rights activists, prominent academics and leaders of civil society organisations:

  • Baroness Manzila Pola Uddin – Member of the House of Lords

  • Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed – Spokesperson of the NAAS Party, Academic & Professor at LSE

  • Raghad Altikriti – President of the Muslim Association of Britain

  • Dr Azzam Tamimi – British / Jordanian Academic

  • Yusuf al-Jamri – Bahraini blogger and Activist

  • Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei - Director of Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

Pegasus spyware came to prominence last summer following an investigation into a leaked batch of 50,000 telephone numbers carried out by Amnesty International’s Security Lab and a collaboration of journalists across ten countries coordinated by Forbidden Stories, including The Guardian in the United Kingdom. The investigation is known globally as ‘The Pegasus Project’.

Once Pegasus spyware is installed on a target’s phone by the foreign state that bought it, it gives them the ability to carry out a sweeping range of functions on the target’s phone – such as activating the camera, microphone and recording device, and exfiltrating data including location data, emails, calendar items, contacts, photos and videos. It is also purportedly able to bypass the encryption of messages in apps such as WhatsApp.

The spyware is intended to be used only for national security or law enforcement purposes. Used outside those contexts, it represents a staggering breach of privacy and underscores the dangers of the misuse of this technology. Monika Sobiecki, partner in the Media and Information Law team at Bindmans LLP, said:

“The shock of the revelations from the Pegasus Project lies in the fact that the misuse of this surveillance spyware touches us all. No matter where in the world an individual may be, or which country they are a citizen of, they and their family, friends and contacts are all vulnerable to having their most intimate personal data raked over by hostile third parties, including authoritarian regimes and political opponents.

Litigation will pave the way to others seeking redress for the unwarranted intrusions into their privacy and will send a strong signal globally that the development and misuse of this surveillance technology causes real harm to democracy everywhere.”

Siobhan Allen, legal officer with GLAN and consultant solicitor with Bindmans LLP, said: 

"The use of Pegasus spyware against these human rights defenders has made their work even more dangerous. It is important to pursue judicial recognition that this should never have happened."

Our team

The challenge has been launched by Bindmans LLP in partnership with the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN). The claimant group is represented by Tamsin Allen, Monika Sobiecki and Tayab Ali of Bindmans LLP, together with Siobhan Allen and Dearbhla Minogue of GLAN. 

Richard Hermer QC, Ben Silverstone and Darryl Hutcheon of Matrix Chambers are instructed as counsel.

Forensics imaging and analysis is being carried out by technology experts at Reckon Digital (London) and by Dr. Bill Marczak of Citizen Lab and UC Berkeley (California). 

The funding we need to raise and why we are asking you to donate

Having completed the crucial first stage of carrying out investigations and gathering forensic evidence of targeting with the spyware, we are raising £50,000 to enable the legal cases to proceed through the courts.

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