Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mass surveillance goes to the ECHR

The UK is a member of the Five Eyes and engages in mass surveillance. The UK is also a member of the European Convention on Human Rights, which affirms rights to privacy and expression. These two things don't seem to go together - so a coalition of human rights and privacy groups are taking the UK to the ECHR to see whether its conduct is legal:

Amnesty International, Liberty and Privacy International have announced today they are taking the UK Government to the European Court of Human Rights over its indiscriminate mass surveillance practices.

The legal challenge is based on documents made available by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden which revealed mass surveillance practices taking place on an industrial scale.

"The UK government’s surveillance practices have been allowed to continue unabated and on an unprecedented scale, with major consequences for people’s privacy and freedom of expression. No-one is above the law and the European Court of Human Rights now has a chance to make that clear," said Nick Williams, Amnesty International’s Legal Counsel.


“Mass surveillance is a violation of our fundamental rights. Intercepting millions of communications every day, and secretly receiving millions more from the NSA by the back door is neither necessary nor proportionate,” said Carly Nyst, Legal Director of Privacy International.

“While the IPT sided with GCHQ and against the rights of millions of people, Europe’s highest human rights court has a strong history of ensuring intelligence agencies are compliant with human rights law. We hope that the Court continues this tradition and GCHQ is finally held accountable for its unfettered spying on the world’s communications.”

Here's hoping that they succeed. And if they do, it is likely to be influential in how our own courts interpret our laws.