HRDs being interviewed by journalists


Restrain the Use of Surveillance Technologies against Human Rights Defenders

4 August 2021

Protection International Signs Joint Open Letter to Restrain the Use of Surveillance Technologies against Human Rights Defenders

Protection International joins 145 civil society organizations and 28 independent experts to call on states to implement an immediate moratorium on the sale, transfer, and use of surveillance technology. The Pegasus Project investigations revealed that many governments have targeted journalists, human rights defenders (HRDs), and politicians to spy on their communications and utilize personal data on their smartphones. The undersigned highlights the key human rights implications of this major exposé and issues a series of recommendations to states, as well as states that export surveillance technology.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights safeguards everyone’s right to be free from arbitrary interference with their privacy — including within the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance, the interception of digital communications, and the collection of personal data. This is especially relevant for HRDs, due to the nature of their work and the kind of risks to which they may be exposed.

Unbridled surveillance technologies like Pegasus severely impede the right to defend human rights. Once the privacy of human rights defenders and journalists is breached, they are left vulnerable to being tracked (both online and off), doxxed, criminalized, blackmailed, and attacked (in every sense of the word). States need to pass legislation that safeguards human rights defenders against abuses through digital surveillance, parallel to the crafting of strong mechanisms for accountability. Meanwhile, our primary focus should be the preventative protection of individuals and their communities.

There is no easy mitigation against the Pegasus spyware until today. As a first step, if you have a suspicion that you, HRDs you work with, or partner organizations may have been targeted, please contact Amnesty Tech (share [at] amnesty. tech) to verify if the phone number is on the list of known, compromised devices. The Access Now digital security helpline can provide helpful technical advice in nine languages.

To view the full statement in English, click here.