(Washington DC, April 7, 2022) – Paul Hastings LLP should immediately drop its lobbying contract with NSO Group, the maker of Pegasus Spyware, which authoritarian rulers have used to great effect to surveil and target its citizens, Democracy has said. for the Arab World Now (DAWN).
Paul Hastings cannot credibly call himself a business and human rights leader and lobby on behalf of the NSO Group, given the many examples of authoritarian governments using the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to target human rights defenders, journalists and government officials.
“Paul Hastings’ portrayal of NSO Group, a serial human rights offender, mocks his claim to be a global leader in supporting business and human rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of DAWN. “Paul Hastings made the choice, for financial gain or otherwise, to defend and try to polish the reputation of a company that allowed brutal authoritarian regimes to spy on and hunt down their own citizens. “
Paul Hastingsan international law firm marketing itself as a “world leader in addressing business and human rights issues”, is now lobbying on behalf of the NSO Group, the maker of Pegasus Spyware. The US Department of Commerce has added NSO Group to its List of entities on November 4, 2021 for “engaging in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”
In a press release explaining its decision, the Commerce Department said NSO Group, an Israeli company, was added to list entities based on evidence that it “has developed and provided spyware to foreign governments that have used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, business people, activists , academics and embassy employees”. He also noted that Pegasus “has enabled foreign governments to carry out transnational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian governments targeting dissidents, journalists, and activists outside their sovereign borders to silence dissent”, and that “[s]These practices threaten the rules-based international order.” Despite Commerce’s designation, Paul Hastings registered as a lobbyist for NSO Group under the Foreign Agents Registration Act in January 2022.
Today, Paul Hastings will co-host a talk on Corporate responsibility for human rights at Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America. The conference will focus on human rights in global supply chains and will include topics related to forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking. Some of the speakers come from countries where repressive governments use surveillance and spyware to target their citizens.
“Human rights activists fighting against forced labor, modern slavery, trafficking, environmental issues, women’s rights, and civil and political rights must take an intersectional approach to human rights advocacy, which means that we cannot and should not choose to simply ignore gross human rights violations that take place outside our areas of operation or roll out the red carpet to companies that facilitate these violations,” said Adam Shapiro , Director of Advocacy for Israel-Palestine at DAWN.”Paul Hastings cannot credibly claim to be a global leader in addressing business and human rights issues while championing a company that facilitates human rights abuses. man in other contexts.”
The company’s work with NSO Group precedes its representation as a lobbyist for the company. In 2019, NSO Group hired Paul Hastings to assess its human rights program. In a September 6 notethe company concluded that “the company’s program design … aligns with the essential elements of a human rights program as identified by the UNGPs [UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights] and relevant methods of interpretation”, and “that the company is seriously committed to implementing the human rights program, and to allocating sufficient resources and funding to carry out its responsibility to respect the human rights “.
Timothy Dickinson, Partner at Paul Hastings, leads the firm’s work with NSO Group. Dickinson serves as Senior Counsel within the litigation department of the firm, and he is also practice teacher at University of Michigan Law School. Hastings is a recognized expert on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and teaches anti-corruption law and practice at Michigan Law School. Dickinson signed the September 6 memo concluding NSO Group’s “serious commitment” to implementing its human rights agenda.
Following Paul Hastings’s advocacy of NSO Group’s human rights practices, numerous human rights organizations and civil society groups continued to correspond and investigate the company during two years on its human rights policies and standards. On April 27, 2021, after his two-year engagement with the company, nine leading human rights organizations released a joint letter to the NSO Group finding that the company had failed to implement human rights policies or provide public information about its policies. Accordingly, these human rights groups concluded: “The totality of these omissions and the outstanding questions and concerns suggest that Novalpina Capital [NSO Group’s parent company] and the NSO Group have not made good faith commitments to respect human rights.”
On July 17, 2021, Forbidden Stories spear The Pegasus Project, a global media initiative involving 17 media outlets. Project Pegasus demonstrated the extent to which authoritarian governments used NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to conduct domestic espionage and transnational repression. The project included multiple items documenting repressive governments across the Middle East and North Africa using spyware to target politicians, government officials, dissidents, human rights defenders and journalists. The NSO group has published a response the next day, where he argued that he was not responsible for these acts because he sells his spyware to controlled counties and does not operate these systems after they are sold.
“Human rights activists should recognize that Paul Hastings’ representation and advocacy for NSO Group makes the company a catalyst for human rights abuses and surveillance of activists by NSO Group,” said said Raed Jarrar, advocacy director of DAWN. “Paul Hastings doesn’t have to co-host a human rights conference.”
See DAWN’s lobbyist profile on Timothy Dickinson on its Lobbyist Hall of Shame webpage.
DAWN Lobbyists Hall of Shame will continue to expose US lobbyists – including lawyers and former elected officials and government officials – who work as agents for abusive governments in the Middle East to obtain US government support, including military aid, sales arms and diplomatic protection.