|Mexico City, May 28, 2018.- A Mexico City District Judge, headquartered in the Reclusorio Sur prison, issued a favorable ruling on complaint number 19/2008, which had been filed by the victims of Pegasus spying software against the decision of the Attorney General’s office (PGR) to not accept evidence offered by the victims on February 20th. This evidence is relevant to moving the investigation forward.
From the moment that the initial criminal complaint was filed, the spying victims realized that the Attorney General’s office did not have the capacity or willingness to investigate its own practices. As a result, the victims demanded that a panel of independent experts participate in the investigation to provide international technical assistance and minimum guarantees of autonomy and independence. To date, this has not occurred.
Instead, almost a year after the case began under file number FED/SDHPDSC/UNAI-CDMX/0000430/2017, our concern has grown. Out of approximately 70 pieces of evidence offered by the victims, the Attorney General’s office has followed up on approximately nine. By contrast, the Attorney General’s office expressly rejected 49 pieces of evidence, including the evidence that was the subject of complaint 19/2008. The failure to use this evidence shows the lack of due diligence in the Attorney General’s investigation of government spying.
The May 21st hearing again established that the Criminal Investigation Agency of the Attorney General’s Office acquired Pegasus software, which was marketed to governments by NSO. As such, the judge indicated that investigators should look into the acquisition and possible illegal use of the software by the Criminal Investigation Agency. At the same time, the judge recognized the victims’ right to participate in the investigation. He further recognized the obligation of the Attorney General’s Office to conduct the investigation with due diligence, by indicating that the burden of producing evidence does not belong to the victims.
After listening to the arguments of the victims and the Attorney General’s Office, the judge decided to reverse the decision of the Attorney General’s Office and order that evidence offered by the victims be accepted and considered in the developing investigation. As a result of this decision, the Attorney General’s Office should request information from various government entities and gather information about the acquisition of the Pegasus system, including who was involved.
In addition, the Attorney General’s Office asked the judge to order that any information that is eventually obtained be sealed, so that the victims could not have access to it. The judge denied this request.
The judge’s decision is important because it shows that the judicial branch can be a strong counter-balance to an Attorney General’s Office that seems more committed to impunity than to finding the truth.
We continue to demand that a panel of independent experts participate in the investigation to guarantee impartiality and technical quality. We also continue to demand that the candidates take a stand about the importance of thoroughly investigating and, if necessary, sanctioning those responsible for the espionage. In a democracy, surveillance should not be used arbitrarily—especially not against journalists, activists, and human rights defenders.
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