Today Access Now filed an intervention with the European Court of Human Rights, providing additional information on how surveillance conducted by the British intelligence agency GCHQ violates international human rights law and policy.
The underlying case, Big Brother Watch and others v. the United Kingdom, deals with U.K. mass surveillance programs like Tempora, as well as U.K. government access to the U.S. database compiled under the Prism surveillance program. The plaintiffs, including Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group, English PEN, and Constanze Kurz, asked the court to investigate whether GCHQ’s practices and the current system of oversight comply with the right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case stalled for nearly two years pending the resolution of complaints in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. The case is now moving forward.
In our intervention Access Now makes three key arguments:
(1) these surveillance programs not only violate the European Convention on Human Rights, but also the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance;
(2) it is inadequate to consider any surveillance program in a vacuum, and the entire suite of information collected under all of the separate programs is more invasive than the sum of the individual parts; and
(3) intelligence sharing regimes undermine the human rights protections included in formal, transparent channels like those available under Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties.
You can read Access Now’s entire intervention here (PDF).