Amnesty International has lost a legal battle in Tel Aviv to force Israel’s Ministry of Defence to revoke S export licence to NSO Group whose surveillance software is alleged to target journalists and human right activists.
The district court judge in Tel Aviv rejected Amnesty’s attempt to block the sale of NSO spyware on Monday, saying the charity had not substantiated its claim that human rights activists were monitored.
NSO Group, which denies any wrongdoing, has been hit by several lawsuits in recent years, including one from the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp, which said its platform had been used to hack users’ phones.
The lawsuits allege malpractice involving the Israeli firm’s Pegasus software, which lets attackers covertly gain access to a target’s mobile phone. It is sold to regimes around the world, including some accused of serious human rights violations.
Amnesty described the verdict as “shameful” and “a cruel blow to people put at risk around the world by NSO selling its products to notorious human rights abusers”.
It added: “This flies in the face of the mountains of evidence of NSO Group’s spyware being used to target human rights defenders from Saudi Arabia to Mexico, including the basis of this case – the targeting of one of our own employees”.
NSO said the judgment was “irrefutable evidence that the regulatory framework in which we operate in is of the highest international standard,” adding that its spyware was sold to “authorised and verified government agencies” and “only used to fight terror and serious crime and protect public safety”.