Three UK human rights groups have come together to challenge the UK Government and its surveillance operation. The scale of the surveillance conducted by GCHQ was revealed initially by Edward Snowden. Recently, the UK Government revealed that it believes it has the right to snoop anywhere on the internet for any reason.
The three groups, Amnesty International, Liberty, and Privacy International, have applied today to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for it to rule on the legality of this surveillance.
“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,” said Nick Williams, legal counsel for Amnesty International.
The groups claim that the surveillance conducted at GCHQ undermines freedoms laid down by the ECHR.
After the revelations by Snowden, this is not the first attempt to clarify the legality of the surveillance operation.
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) is a UK court which investigates complaints of unlawful use of covert techniques by public authorities which may infringe on privacy rights or other human rights.
In December, the IPT ruled that GCHQ’s work was a legitimate method for gathering intelligence. On the other hand, a separate ruling in February by the IPT stated that the GCHQ was not open enough about how it gathered and shared this information, making its process unlawful.
Amnesty International made the point that IPT hearings are “secretive” and thus undermine the public’s faith in official oversight of GCHQ. Amnesty has also identified flaws in the oversight system, such as how it works with US counterparts to get at information that would otherwise be hard to acquire. Amnesty have also found loopholes in UK law which GCHQ could use to extend its powers.
GCHQ made this statement about the case: “We completely reject the assertions made in the press release from Amnesty International and others, which do not reflect the judgments of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. The IPT was clear in its December judgment that the legal regime is lawful, and that GCHQ does not seek to carry out mass surveillance. The government will be vigorously defending this case at the European Court of Human Rights.”Source: BBC News