Sanctions Against NSO Group Are Not Enough to Uphold Human Rights in Togo

Togolese journalist Ferdinand Ayité

Earlier this month, the United States placed sanctions on NSO Group for developing and supplying spyware to foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target a range of actors, including journalists and activists. NSO Group has come under scrutiny in recent years over the firm’s Pegasus spyware which has been used by security forces and authoritarian governments in several countries. Togo is one of the nations which has utilized NSO Group’s spyware.

Togo is currently led by Faure Gnassingbé. Faure Gnassingbé has been the president of Togo since he was installed by the military in 2005 after his fater Gnassingbé Eyadéma died. Since 1967, Togo has been under the control of the Gnassingbé family. Much like his father, Faure has retained his power in Togo through suppressing his citizens. This has included violating digital rights. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice ruled last year that a 2017 internet shutdown by the government of Togo was illegal. Not only has the government of Togo attempted to restrict access to the internet, but it has also engaged in a campaign of spying on its citizens as well.

A Togolese journalist named Ferdinand Ayité was identified as being among those who have been targeted by Pegasus spyware. Research conducted by Citizen Lab exposed how widespread this digital spying in Togo has been. Apart from journalists, opposition leaders and religious leaders have been targeted as well.

The government of Togo is just one of the governments around the world that has utilized the Pegasus spyware to violate the privacy of its citizens. The sanctions which the Biden administration have placed NSO Group have sent a strong message of condemnation over the use of Pegasus spyware, but I also think that more action needs to be taken with regard to American foreign policy towards Togo. For too long the regime in Togo has been free to violate the rights of its citizens with little pressure or condemnation from the international community. If the United States is willing to condemn NSO Group, then it should be equally willing to condemn governments which have utilized NSO Group’s spyware to violate the rights of their citizens.

Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook and Twitter.