PORTLAND, OR — The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA), and Foley Hoag LLP on Monday filed an amended complaint with the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon on behalf of renowned Saudi human rights activist Loujain Alhathloul against three former members of the U.S. national security establishment and their former employer, DarkMatter Group, an Emirati cyber-surveillance company. 

“With authoritarianism encroaching around the globe, we must be more vigilant than ever in protecting human rights advocates from threats to their digital security,” said EFF Civil Liberties Director David Greene. “Companies that employ spyware on behalf of oppressive governments must be held accountable for the resulting human rights abuses.”

For the past decade, Ms. Alhathloul, a nominee for the 2019 and 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, has been a powerful advocate for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. She was at the forefront of the public campaign advocating for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia and has been a vocal critic of the country’s male guardianship system. 

The amended complaint alleges that DarkMatter Group, an arm of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) security services, recruited defendants Baier, Adams, and Gericke, former members of the U.S. national security establishment, to target perceived dissidents as part of the UAE’s broader cooperation with Saudi Arabia. Defendants utilized U.S. cybersurveillance technology, along with their U.S. intelligence training, to assist the UAE security services’ persecution of Ms. Alhathloul, as well as that of other human rights activists, by hacking into her iPhone, surveilling her movements, and exfiltrating her confidential communications. Following the hack, Ms. Alhathloul was arbitrarily detained by the UAE’s security services and forcibly rendered to Saudi Arabia, where she was imprisoned and tortured. Today, Ms. Alhathloul is no longer in prison, but she is currently subject to a travel ban and unable to leave Saudi Arabia. 

“Our sister Loujain has been through an unimaginable ordeal for her defense of women’s rights. She has been tortured and sentenced as a terrorist, kidnapped, and forcibly disappeared. All these violations have taken place with the use of spyware technologies,” said Alia Alhathloul, Loujain’s sister. “This trial is of the utmost importance to seek redress and justice, as Loujain and her activism should be celebrated – not repressed.”

CJA Senior Staff Attorney Claret Vargas stated, “This lawsuit shows the very real human rights violations that can occur when former U.S. intelligence and military officials sell their knowledge and services to foreign oppressive regimes, which use these tools to carry out their repressive policies.” 

For the amended complaint: https://www.eff.org/document/alhathloul-v-darkmatter-group-first-amended-complaint

For more on this case: https://www.eff.org/cases/alhathloul-v-darkmatter-group 

Contacts: EFF Civil Liberties Director David Greene, davidg@eff.org