Greece is under the microscope of the Council of Europe, along with four other countries, regarding the use of illegal surveillance software and the use of Pegasus.
As more and more evidence comes to light that spyware has been used for illegal purposes by many member states of the Council of Europe, a committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has urged five governments to provide information about its use of spyware within three months, and fully investigate all cases of abuse.
To impose sanctions
In approving a draft resolution on Pegasus and similar spyware and secret government surveillance, PACE's Legal Affairs Committee unequivocally condemned "the use of spyware by state authorities for political purposes."
It also urged Poland, Hungary, Greece, Spain and Azerbaijan to immediately and fully investigate all cases of spyware abuse, sanction those found and make reparations for the victims.
The draft resolution, based on a report by Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD), also called on other member states that appear to have acquired or used Pegasus – including Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – to clarify its use, and the mechanisms in place to oversee it, within three months.
"It should be avoided in countries where there was a significant risk of it being used for repression"
The commission said that covert surveillance of political opponents, public officials, journalists, human rights defenders and civil society for purposes other than those listed in the European Convention on Human Rights, such as crime prevention or protection of national security, would constitute a clear violation of the Convention.
Given its intrusiveness, states should refrain from using such spyware until their laws and practices on covert surveillance are in line with the Convention and other international standards, as assessed by Council of Europe legal experts. In any case, they should only use it for "exceptional situations as a last resort," the committee said. They should also avoid exporting it to countries where there was a significant risk that it would be used for repression or human rights abuses.
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (@PACE_News) of the Council of Europe (@coe) approved the rapporteur's report @PieterOmtzigt for malware tracking software. The Commission requests the following from the Greek government: https://t.co/Wn0Os7WeJh pic.twitter.com/NiU6tlW5mW- Thanasis Koukakis (@nasoskook) September 11, 2023
Politicians and journalists are targeted
The committee also requested information from Israel, a PACE observer state, on how it ensures that Pegasus, which is marketed by an Israel-based company, is not exported to countries where it could be used to violate human rights . Morocco, a PACE "partner for democracy" state that allegedly used Pegasus in Spain, was also asked to provide information and investigate its use.
Politicians or journalists from Poland, Spain and Greece who were targeted by Pegasus or similar spyware testified to the committee at a public hearing in December 2022.
Mr Omtzigt's report is to be discussed by the Assembly plenary at its next plenary session in Strasbourg (9-13 October 2023).