April 13. 2024. 5:37

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Catalonia bans use of Pegasus spyware

The Catalan government has decided to ban the use of the Pegasus software and other similar programs following a cabinet meeting on Tuesday (4 April).

Meritxell Serret, Minister of Foreign Action and European Union, told EURACTIV that with the decision, they are “complying with and implementing the commitments of the Geneva Declaration on Targeted Surveillance and Human Rights.”

The declaration was led by the civil society AccessNow together with the Catalonian government. It “calls on governments, in coordination with civil society and the private sector, to implement a moratorium on the export, sale, transfer, servicing and use of targeted digital surveillance technologies developed by the private industry, until rigorous human rights safeguards are put in place to regulate such practices.”

Serret mentioned that Catalan ministers had been victims of illegal surveillance programmes such as Pegasus. As EURACTIV reported last year, according to a European Parliament report, the Spanish government’s use of Pegasus against the separatist politicians was not justified because there was no threat to the country’s security.

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Serret said that victims of the spyware had “repeatedly called out the violation of rights connected to the illegitimate use of surveillance software, including during the PEGA mission of the European Parliament to Madrid.”

She added that they “call for regulatory frameworks that protect victims against the lack of safeguards in cases like the Pegasus case, and guarantees that the use of cyber-surveillance programmes respects human rights. We call for this in order to strengthen democracies because the violation of fundamental rights cannot be justified in the name of security.”

By adopting a moratorium on the use of targeted cyber-surveillance tools, Catalonia became the second government worldwide to do so. In late March US President Joe Biden signing an executive order in connection to this.

Spanish MEP Diana Riba said that some are demanding a ban across the EU as well, but she believes there is not enough majority for that to happen. However, they are in the middle of the long legal process of regulating Pegasus-like programs.

Riba told EURACTIV that there is a majority demanding a moratorium, and not a ban, because, in some cases, like those related to terrorism, such programs are effective.

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Even though Biden’s executive order does not explicitly mention Pegasus, it prohibits “operational use by the United States Government of commercial spyware that poses risks to national security or has been misused by foreign actors to enable human rights abuses around the world.”

The US did, however, mention CatalanGate in its human rights report of 2022, saying that the Pegasus software targeted individuals, including “presidents of the Catalan regional government, European Parliament members, Catalan jurists, activists, and politicians.”