SPAIN: CSOs statement against state surveillance on journalists, politicians, and lawyers

Original statement signed by human rights organisations and collectives (including the European Civic Forum) in defence of the rule of law, democracy and society published by Iridia on 3 May 2022

State surveillance on journalists, politicians, and lawyers in Spain

Date: 3 May 2022

On 18 April 2022, the Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto published an investigation in which
it concluded that there had been an extensive surveillance operation using the PEGASUS and
CANDIRU programs, focusing on different Catalan and Basque personalities. According to the
research, confirmed by Amnesty International, at least 65 individuals were targeted. Among
those affected were journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and political representatives from
Catalonia and the Basque Country (including Members of the European Parliament as well as
different Catalan Presidents).

To date, this case of surveillance has become the most important within Europe, being the most
visible and newest face of longstanding repressive practices, not only within Catalonia and the
Basque Country but also beyond its borders. The interferences published by The Citizen Lab study
should not be understood as isolated cases, but rather part of a set of tools employed in the
persecution of critical voices, political dissidence and shrinking civil society space.

In light of the information made public about the use of this spyware which is only available for
states, the organisations and collectives undersigned wish to declare that:

1. Article 18 of the Spanish Constitution protects the right of the inviolability of the home, privacy, and
privacy of communications, as do the international treaties which Spain has signed. Any interference
with these fundamental rights must be prescribed by a law which must be clear, predictable and
adequately accessible, as required in a democratic society. This Law must protect the achievement
of legitimate aims included in the different international agreements.

2. The National Intelligence Centre (CNI) was created under law 11/2002, May 6, which provides
for the regulation of this organisation. This law authorises the practice of “security investigations”
without specifying the mechanism or the limits of such investigations. The law is accompanied by
Organic Law 2/2002, May 6, which regulates the judicial control prior to the actions of the CNI.
The Law states that a Magistrate of the Supreme Court may authorise measures that affect the
inviolability of the home and the privacy of communications.

3. The actions of the CNI with the judicial rulings authorising the interference of fundamental
rights are kept secret. Parliamentary control of the costs associated with such actions falls to the
Congress Committee and is also kept secret. Up to the present time, this Committee has not met
a single time.

4. The vagueness and lack of definition of the laws regulating the CNI mean that it is impossible
to indicate the scope and manner of exercising the discretionary power conferred on the public

5. The use of spyware of these characteristics implies a flagrant breach of the right to privacy and
privacy of communications. Moreover, spying on human rights defenders and journalists constitutes
a threat to freedom of expression and demonstration. Women’s rights defenders, such as Hala
Ahed Deeb in Jordan and Ebtisam Al-Saegh in Bahrain, have been targeted by Pegasus spyware.
This is also the case for various writers, who are critical of the Indian government, such as Rona
Wilson (currently in jail), and Palestinian Human Rights Defenders, the lawyer Salah Hammouri
(currently in jail) and the activists Ubai Al-Aboudi and Ghassan Halarika. Lastly, its use against
lawyers also constitutes a breach to the right to defence and the duty of professional secrecy, which
are fundamental parts of the Judicial System and in the foundation of any democracy subject to the
rule of law.

6. From the advocacy and human rights organisations, we declare our absolute condemnation of
the use of Pegasus or other software to spy on human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, and
members of civil society organisations, politicians and civil society at large. We understand that this
measure is illegal and undemocratic in terms of International human rights and poses a threat to
the rule of law and democracy.

7. We demand that public institutions and the judiciary conduct an independent, speedy and
effective investigation to clarify these facts and guarantee that citizens’ right to defence, intimacy,
privacy of communications, freedom of expression and information will be respected by State
bodies, including the security services in accordance with the rule of law, democracy and society
of the European Union.

8. We demand a revision of both the Law 11/2002, May 6, regulating the CNI and the Organic Law
2/2022, May 6, regulating the judicial control prior of the creation of the CNI, in order to meet the
standards of clarity, predictability, accessibility and protection of individual rights, as required by the
treaties ratified by the Spanish State.

9. We recommend an eradication of corporate protectionism. Furthermore, we call for the
incorporation of the requests of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for the application of
preventive measures regarding the use of state and private spying programs and her requests to
seek accountability from the companies who are responsible for developing and distributing such
surveillance technologies, due to the negative consequences they have on the protection of rights.

Signatory organisations:

1. ACDDH – Associació Catalana per a la Defensa dels Drets Humans
2. Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
3. AED – European Democratic Lawyers
4. ALA – Asociación Libre de Abogadas y Abogados
5. ALAZ – Asociación Libre de Abogadas y 6. Abogados de Zaragoza
6. Alerta Solidària
7. Al Haq – Defending Human Rights
8. APDHA – Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía
9. Associació d’Advocats d’Osona en defensa dels Drets Humans
10. Bisan Center Research and Development
11. Calala Fondo de Mujeres
12. CELS – Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales
13. Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties)
14. Col·lectiu Praga
15. Coordinadora de l’advocacia de Catalunya
16. Ecologistas en Acción
17. ELDH – European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights
18. Erabakizaleak – Juristas por el Derecho a Decidir
19. Esculca – Observatorio galego para a defensa dos dereitos civís e as liberdade
20. European Civic Forum
21. Fair Trials
22. IDHC – Institut de Drets Humans de Catalunya
23. Irídia – Centre per la Defensa de Drets Humans
24. Irish Council for Civil Liberties
25. Juristes de les Terres de l’Ebre per les Llibertats
26. Juristes per la República de Tarragona
27. KHRC – Kenian Human Rights Commission
28. LaFede
29. LRC – Legal Resource Center
30. Novact – Instituto Internacional por la Acción Noviolenta
31. OMCT, World Organisation Against Torture
32. Osabideak
33. OSPDH – Observatorio del Sistema Penal y los Derechos Humanos
34. RIS – Rights International Spain