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Samson Martirosyan

PACE Calls on Azerbaijan to Monitor Illegal Spyware Surveillance of Domestic Opponents, Armenians

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution on October 11 condemning the use of surveillance spyware by European and other governments against journalists, political opponents, human rights defenders and lawyers.

The resolution is based on the 2021 findings of a coalition of investigative journalists that Israeli manufactured Pegasus spyware was sold to at least fourteen European Union countries for targeted surveillance of their own citizens.

PACE further notes that according to the “Pegasus Project” revelations, Azerbaijan has also used Pegasus, including against journalists, independent media owners and civil society activists. Recent reports have disclosed its use in connection with the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, against 12 persons working in Armenia, including an Armenian government official, in what appears to be an example of transnational targeted surveillance.  

In May of this year, a joint investigation between Access Now, CyberHUB-AM, the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto (the Citizen Lab), Amnesty International’s Security Lab, and an independent mobile security researcher Ruben Muradyan, has uncovered hacking of civil society victims in Armenia with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

“Pegasus is a highly intrusive surveillance spyware, which grants the user complete and unrestricted access to all sensors and information on the targeted mobile phone. It turns the smartphone into a 24-hour surveillance device, accessing the camera and microphone, geolocation data, e-mails, messages, photos, videos, passwords, and applications,” the PACE resolution notes.

The use of secret spying programs against political opponents, government officials, journalists, human rights defenders and civil society is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Given the proliferation of such programs, the resolution reaffirms PACE's position that states should only use these programs "in exceptional situations as a last resort" and should avoid exporting these programs to countries where there is a significant risk that they will be used for repression or human rights abuses.

The resolution calls on Azerbaijan to inform PACE and the Venice Commission about the use of Pegasus and similar spyware, within three months and to investigate all confirmed and alleged cases of spyware abuse.

The same call was made to Hungary, Greece, Spain and Poland.


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