RWANDA-BELGIUM: The spectre of Pegasus resurrected

By Erasme Rugemintwaza

According to some Belgian newspapers, the iPhone of the Belgian journalist Peter Verlinden and his wife Marie Bamutese may have been infiltrated using Pegasus technology. It is suspected that the Rwandan government is involved.

The Belgian newspapers Knack and Le Soir published the information this Friday, September 17, 2021, after reading a compilation of an intelligence report from the Belgian Military Intelligence Agency (ADIV). The agency suspects that the iPhone of Peter Verlinden and his wife, a Rwandan, has been infected via Rwandan government; a security analysis laboratory of the human rights organization Amnesty International, found evidence that these iPhones were infected.

In July of this year 2021, there was a global saga that a sophisticated information technology was sold by the Israeli company NSO Group to authoritarian governments to spy on the mobile phones of journalists and human rights activists of high profile in many countries. In Belgium, the Military Intelligence Service (ADIV) opened an investigation following the publication of this information.

Our service has identified a number of Belgian nationals likely to have been affected by the Pegasus technology. It is in this context that Peter Verlinden and Marie Bamutese were approached to verify whether their mobile phones were not affected by this drama “: This is indicated by a report from the Belgian Military Intelligence Service (ADIV), made public this Thursday, September 16, 2021.

The report states that, although a thorough investigation continues, the Belgian Military Intelligence Agency (ADIV) has been able to determine that it is possible that Verlinden and Bamutese’s mobile phones have been infiltrated by Pegasus. And based on the period when the infection occurred and the identity of those spied on, the Belgian Military Intelligence Service (ADIV) is suspicious against the Rwandan government.

Due to the sophisticated way in which this Pegasus spyware was manufactured by NSO, a cutting edge technology company, the Belgian Military Intelligence Service (ADIV) is conducting a high level investigation to ensure the accuracy of the evidence already obtained and the extent of the spying.

In response to this, the NSO Company, which produced Pegasus, told Knack who delivered this information that when NSO finds compelling evidence that there was a violation of the law by the customer, the company provided for the sanctions to punish the offender, including a suspension of the use of Pegasus.

The Flemish Journalists Association (VVJ) says it was appalled by the story and calls for action. VVJ / AVBB urge the Belgian government not to downplay these actions against journalists as it is currently doing. The association demands that there be no tolerance for those behind these spy activities using Pegasus.