[WHRD Alert] MEXICO / Center ProDH attacked by Pegasus again.

April 24, 2023

Two members of the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (Center ProDH) were spied upon with Pegasus software during 2022.

At the end of 2022, Center ProDH members received electronic mail in which they were notified that their telephones had been the targets of interference by “State-supported assailants.” The e-mails warned that the attacks had occurred due to “who they are” or for “what they do” and alerted them to the danger that the most recent attack could have left their communications and equipment vulnerable. 

The telephones were analyzed, and Citizen Lab confirmed that the communications of the Director and International Area Coordinator of Center ProDH, Santiago Aguirre and defender María Luisa Aguilar respectively, had been attacked by Pegasus at least five times.

It is important to note that in 2017, during the Enrique Peña Nieto regime, the Center ProDH defended some of the most emblematic human rights movements, including the Tlatlaya, Ayotzinapa, and Atenco cases. That year, an investigation was carried out by R3D –the Network in Defense of Digital Rights, Social ICT and Article 19– in which it was found that three persons from the Center ProDH had received infectious messages involving telephone interference.  These attacks were denounced before the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Speech of the Assistant Attorney General’s Office of Human Rights, Crime Prevention, and Community Services in the former Attorney General’s Office (PGR). As of now, the facts of the case have not been clarified or the responsible parties identified.  

The repeated attacks against the Center ProDH have taken place in situations related to its work of demanding truth and justice for victims accompanied. 

The illegal intervention of private communications by Pegasus malware against human rights defenders and journalists produces specific impacts on their personal digital security and privacy and places them in situations entailing risk, given that the use of such technology may provide key information for the perpetration of attacks involving grave intrusions into the software of persons under surveillance.   

We of IM-Defensoras and the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Mexico repudiate acts of espionage by the authorities, and particularly by the armed forces through the use of Pegasus malware. We await a forceful response by the Mexican government and all of its competent authorities regarding the effective protection and security of human rights defenders and guarantees of access to justice for all victims, with further guarantees that these highly serious violations will not be repeated. 

Likewise, we call for establishing the facts of the case through a speedy, impartial, thoroughgoing investigation that leads to the identification of all intellectual agents and perpetrators. 

And finally, we express our solidarity with the Center ProDH and call on the international community, global entities, and mechanisms for the protection of human rights to denounce these actions of espionage, persecution, and violence.