MEPs sitting on the spyware inquiry committee visited Poland to discuss reports of illicit surveillance with politicians, experts and victims.
During their visit from 19 to 21 September, the ten-member MEP delegation from the Committee of Inquiry to investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware met with the Polish Senate’s spyware inquiry committee and members of the Sejm, the lower house of Parliament.
They also visited the Supreme Audit Office to learn about its inspections, which had revealed purchases of spyware with public funds, and met people targeted with spyware, including opposition politicians in the lead-up to the 2019 election, a prosecutor, and civil society representatives. Finally, speaking to experts with experience of working for Poland’s intelligence services, MEPs heard about how surveillance has become more aggressive and oversight weaker since 2016.
After the visit, Committee Chair Jeroen Lenaers (EPP, NL) said: “We had a series of fruitful meetings, which shed new light on the illegal use of intrusive surveillance against democratic actors in Poland. We see that the system of legal and institutional checks and balances has been dismantled to enable targeting individuals deemed as political opponents with military-grade cyber weapon. As a result, crucial democratic standards and citizens’ rights enshrined in EU and Polish laws have been grossly violated. This is yet another dimension of the crisis of the rule of law in Poland.
We condemn the refusal of the government of Poland to cooperate with the PEGA committee. This, however, does not discourage us from continuing our inquiry, and preparing recommendations, which will help safeguard EU citizens against abuse of intrusive surveillance tools.”
Rapporteur Sophie In ’t Veld (Renew, NL) stated: “It is crystal clear the PiS government is using spyware as a tool in their oppressive, authoritarian agenda, to surveil, discredit, blackmail or intimidate critics and opponents, in an ugly echo of past times. Given that most democratic institutions have been captured or dismantled, victims are left without protection or recourse. It is essential that the EU rapidly adopts strict rules for the use of spyware, offering real protection to all European citizens.
Against the backdrop of these grave violations of fundamental rights of European citizens, and undermining of democracy in Europe with the help of Pegasus spyware, it is not acceptable that NSO and the Israeli authorities refuse to confirm if export licenses for, and contracts with the Polish authorities have been repealed or not. They should give full transparency immediately.”
The visit concluded on Wednesday with a press conference in Warsaw, which you can watch here (livestream and video-on-demand).
MEPs also wanted to meet with representatives of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice, but these requests were declined, prompting political groups to issue a critical joint statement.
You can see the full participant list and more information here.
Bartosz OCHAPSKIPress Officer in Poland