Press Release: ADC-ICT CONDEMNS PEGASUS SPYWARE MONITORING OF DEFENCE COUNSEL BEFORE THE IRMCT
On 26 July 2021, the ADC-ICt issued a press release regarding the monitoring of defence counsel by Pegasus Spyware.
THE HAGUE – The Association of Defence Counsel practising before the International Courts and Tribunals (ADC-ICT) is extremely concerned by the inclusion of a defence counsel practicing before the IRMCT as a potential target of Pegasus spyware identified by the Organised Crime Corruption and Reporting Project (OCCRP).
A consortium of journalists has gained access to a leak of more than 50,000 phone numbers entered into a system for targeting by Pegasus, a spyware product made by the company NSO Group. Although the specific government agencies that purchased access to Pegasus to attack these targets are not specified in the data, they can be reasonably inferred from the geographical clustering of the leaked phone numbers. More than 3,500 Rwandan phone numbers appear on the leaked Pegasus list, indicating that they were potential targets of the software. These phone numbers include that of Mr. Gatera Gashabana, who currently represents Marie-Rose Fatuma in the Nzabonimpa et al proceedings before the IRMCT.
Monitoring of Mr. Gashabana’s conversations would violate the lawyer-client privilege protected by Rule 119 of the IRMCT Rules, which was recognised by the Appeals Chamber as being “vital to the defence of an accused or appellant by allowing for the open communication between attorney and client necessary for effective legal assistance as guaranteed under Article 21(4)(d) of the Statute”.
It is also inconsistent with the privileges and immunities that are to be afforded to defence counsel while on mission in Rwanda, as provided for by the Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the Republic of Rwanda to Regulate Matters of Mutual Concern Relating to the Office in Rwanda of the ICTR of 3 June 1999, and which continues in force mutatis mutandis in relation to the Mechanism pursuant to paragraph 4 of S/RES/1966 (2010). On a human level, it is also distressing for the individuals involved.
The ADC-ICT reiterates the right of lawyers under the UN Principles to perform their professional functions “without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference”. It has today written to the IRMCT principals asking that the Government of the Republic of Rwanda be reminded of the right of accused before the IRMCT to privileged communication with their legal team, the privileges and immunities to be afforded to defence counsel, and seek assurances that any monitoring of lawyers practising before the Mechanism immediately cease.
The ADC-ICT is an independent professional association which represents all defence counsel practicing the IRMCT, and formerly before the ICTY. The ADC-ICT works to promote and protect the interests of defence counsel and their clients and ensure the proper function of defence is respected in proceedings before international courts and tribunals. Further information is available at: www.adc-ict.org