The international human rights organizations that have signed this statement express our profound concern and indignation for espionage against members of Mexican civil society, journalists, opposition parties, and staff of international organizations that have criticized the current government. There should be a serious and transparent investigation into these acts of espionage, taking into account the need to create an independent panel of experts and international experts for it.
The investigations done by Citizen Lab, Article 19, R3D and SocialTIC and published by The New York Times show that there have been multiple cases of surveillance and espionage by way of a software called Pegasus that only could be sold to governments and that was only permitted to be used to investigate presumed criminals and terrorists. Among those who have been victims to this form of espionage and surveillance are journalists, human rights defenders, and other activists that have made public information on corruption, unlawful public contracts, decisions about public health and serious violations of human rights that occurred in this administration and during the mandate of President Enrique Peña Nieto as Governor of Mexico state, as well as opposition parties.
In accordance with revelations that were made public this past July 10, members of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) which provided technical assistance to the Mexican government on the case of 43 students who were forcibly disappeared in Guerrero, appear to have also been subject to these forms of espionage. The malware infiltrates cellular telephones through a text message with a link that, on being accessed, facilitates the secret installation of the software that allows monitoring of all cellular activity, including emails, encrypted messages, calls, camera and microphone.
These revelations of espionage come in one of the most violent moments for journalists and human rights defenders in Mexico, with the murder of at least seven journalists and six human rights defenders so far this year. Impunity for these cases continues to be the general rule, and actions taken by the government have not been able to guarantee justice nor sanction those who attack voices that are critical of the government and its agents.
The response of the Mexican government to the allegations of espionage have been insufficient and seem to be counting on the scandal to be forgotten. The Attorney General of the Republic of Mexico and its Special Prosecutor for Crimes committed against the Freedom of Expression (FEADLE for its acronym in Spanish) have announced that they opened an investigation on the surveillance and asked for the support of the United Nations and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, the terms by which this cooperation is being requested are neither obvious nor clear, and, in the case of the United States, the American Ambassador in Mexico said that this support was not officially requested.
The undersigned organizations join the demands of Mexican civil society and of some members of the IACHR to create an independent panel of international experts that, unlike the national authorities, can carry out an investigation that produces serious and credible results for the victims of this espionage and for society in general. Likewise, we call on the Mexican government to make the contracts and documents related to the acquisition and use of the espionage software public.
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Center for the Study of Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia)
Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS)
Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
Conectas Human Rights
Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF)
Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
Just Associates (JASS)
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI)