Indigenous rights defender Abel Barrera Hernández targeted by Pegasus spyware

Published by Brent Patterson on

On July 29, PBI-Mexico tweeted: “The @espacioOSC points out that in #México the acts of espionage revealed by #PegasusProject.”

The PBI-Mexico tweet then links to this statement from the Espacio OSC that highlights: “At least 109 human rights defenders and 25 journalists were infected by the Pegasus malware during the last six-year period.”

One of the human rights defenders on the Pegasus list is Abel Barrera Hernández, the founder and director of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre that was established in 1994 to serve the Indigenous peoples of the mountainous region of east Guerrero.

PBI-Mexico began accompanying Tlachinollan in 2003.

PBI-Mexico has explained: “The organization since its founding has sought to promote and defend the rights of the Na savi, Me’phaa, Nauas, Nn´anncue and Mestizo peoples of the Montaña and Costa Chica regions of Guerrero.”

In 2004, at a time of increased militarization against narco-traffickers, Tlachinollan staff began hearing about and reporting abuses by the Mexican army. The abuses included rapes, forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and seizure of lands. As a result of their reporting, Abel and his staff were targeted and threatened.

In 2009, Tlachinollan brought a case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on behalf of Inés Fernández and Valentina Rosendo.

Valentina Rosendo Cantú, a 17-year-old Indigenous Me’phaa woman, was raped by Mexican soldiers on February 16, 2002, when she was washing clothes in a stream near her home. Inés Fernández Ortega, also Me’phaa, was sexually assaulted by soldiers who had raided her home on March 22, 2002.

In August 2010, the Inter-American Court determined that the rights of both women to a life free from violence; to protection of human dignity and private life; to due process and judicial guarantees were violated.

Barrera has stated: “Justice for the indigenous peoples of the Mexican mountains does not exist; it must be won inch by inch and confronting grave dangers. Those that seek a better life and organize to realize their human rights are sought out and assassinated.”

In November 2010, Barrera received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for his efforts to end human rights abuses resulting from military impunity.

The RFK Centre stated: “Mr. Barrera and his colleagues work under constant threat to protect the rights of peasants and indigenous peoples against forced disappearances, rape, arbitrary detentions, intimidation, dispossession of lands and illegal interrogations, and to improve their access to healthcare, legal representation and education.”

The Guardian has explained: “Pegasus is a malware [sold by the Israeli company NSO Group] that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable operators of the tool to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones.”

It adds: “The [Mexican] defence ministry was the first to acquire the spyware in 2011. Other Mexican agencies that bought and/or operated Pegasus include the attorney general’s office and the national security intelligence service (CISEN). Several state security forces are also believed to have access to the spyware.”

The Espacio OSC statement highlights: “There is an urgent need to clarify its illegal use and protect human rights defenders and journalists.”

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