Human Rights Council: International coalition endorses principles against unchecked surveillance

Published: September 20, 2013

Coalition endorses 13 Principles which will be presented at side event of 24th session of Human Rights Council. PHOTO: FILE

GENEVA: Bolo Bhi, an internet freedom group joined an international coalition endorsing a set of international principles against unchecked surveillance on Friday.

The 13 Principles will be officially presented at a side event of the 24th session of the Human Rights Council at 5PM local time which will be attended by Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Frank LaRue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion.

Over the past several years, government surveillance has grown to disturbing proportions, as highlighted most recently by the revelations regarding the unchecked surveillance programs operated by the United State’s National Security Agency and the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters.

With this in mind, a collection of civil society organisations, including Bolo Bhi, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access, Article 19, Privacy International, Association for Progressive Communications, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders, presented the 13 Principles in a Human Rights Council side event today. The meeting was organized by the UN member States of Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Hungary.

“Governments around the world are increasing control of private lives of their citizens. The Snowden leaks reveal a dark reality that powerful states are not only violating the rights of their own citizens but those of others around the world with what appear to be total unquestionable impunity. This must end, their powers must be limited and all states must respect the fundamental right to privacy at home and abroad,” Sana Saleem, a director at Bolo Bhi.

The 13 Principles set out for the first time an evaluative framework for assessing surveillance practices in the context of international human rights obligations.

Navi Pillay speaking at the Human Rights Council stated in her opening statement to the Human Rights Council, “Laws and policies must be adopted to address the potential for dramatic intrusion on individuals’ privacy which have been made possible by modern communications technology.”

Frank La Rue made clear the direct relationship among state surveillance, privacy and freedom of expression.

He said, “The right to privacy is often understood as an essential requirement for the realization of the right to freedom of expression. Undue interference with individuals’ privacy can both directly and indirectly limit the free development and exchange of ideas.”

He further added, “An infringement upon one right can be both the cause and consequence of an infringement upon the other.”

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