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Al-Masarir v Saudi Arabia: A route to state accountability for spyware

Background On 19 August 2022, Knowles J denied Saudi Arabia’s claim to immunity in the case of Al Masarir v Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [2022] EWHC 2199. The claimant was a human rights activist and critic of the Saudi Arabian government who had been residing in the UK. The factual background to his claim was as follows: Mr Masarir claimed that malicious text messages had been sent to two of his iPhones, and spyware known as ‘Pegasus’ had infected his devices after Mr Masarir had clicked the link in those messages (Al Masarir, [14]). Mr Masarir alleged that Saudi Arabia was responsible for hacking his devices and operating the spyware, which had allowed it to, inter alia, spy on texts and calls and track the location of the phone. Mr Masarir also alleged that he had been assaulted in Knightsbridge, London; an act which he claimed had been directed or authorised by the Defendant or its officials  (Al Masarir, [16]).

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Canada Takes on International Law in Cyberspace

This April, Global Affairs Canada (GAC, the foreign ministry) released Canada’s position on the application of international law in cyberspace. Unfortunately, for two reasons, the statement failed to attract the attention it merited. First, Canada released it on the heels of the 2019-21 U.N. Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) Report on State…

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The United Kingdom on International Law in Cyberspace

The United Kingdom has long been a thought leader in applying international law to cyberspace. In 2018, the then-Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, spoke on the subject in a granular address at Chatham House, making the United Kingdom one of the first countries to set forth its views on how international law applies to cyberspace during…

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The Istanbul Convention: A Missed Opportunity in Mainstreaming Cyberviolence against Women in Human Rights Law?

The monitoring body of the Council of Europe (CoE) Istanbul Convention, GREVIO, has recently adopted its very first General Recommendation which is specifically devoted to the ‘Digital Dimension of Violence against Women’. This development is important considering that the text of the Istanbul Convention had no direct or indirect reference to cyber forms of violence…

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Ukranian ‘IT Army’: A Cyber Levée en Masse or Civilians Directly Participating in Hostilities?

In the days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Digital Transformation Mykhaylo Fedorov announced in a tweet the creation of an ‘IT Army’. According to reports, as many as 400, 000 people from across the world have joined. A list of targets has been published and…

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