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News code: 24013
Published Date: Tuesday 7 November 2017 - 14:33:10
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UK faces trial for surveillance

UK faces trial for surveillance
World  - The first major challenge to the legality of UK intelligence agencies intercepting private communications in bulk, following Edward Snowden's whistleblowing revelations, is due to be heard by the European court of human rights (ECHR) according to the Guardian.

Three separate British cases brought by civil rights groups will be considered together by seven judges in Strasbourg on Tuesday, raising questions about the way GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 share surveillance material with the United States and other foreign governments.

One of the claims, brought by an alliance of 10 human rights organizations, has been considered by the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT) in London, which takes some of its evidence in secret.

The tribunal has already ruled that in the past the UK surveillance regime was unlawful because it breached the right to privacy under article 8 of the European convention on human rights - but that it was now compliant.

The tribunal also found that GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping agency, spied on Amnesty International and the South African non-profit Legal Resources Centre by retaining and illegally examining their data.

The other two claims at Strasbourg, brought by Big Brother Watch and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, have gone directly to the ECHR. They involve allegations that government interception breaches freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial, on the grounds that the IPT's hearings are held partially in secret and do not provide an effective domestic remedy.

Nick Williams, Amnesty International's senior legal counsel, said: "This case concerns the UK, but its significance is global. It's a watershed moment for people's privacy and freedom of expression across the world."
Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty, said: "Our organisations exist to stand up for people and challenge abuse of power. We work with whistleblowers, victims, lawyers, journalists and campaigners around the world, so confidentiality and protection of our sources is vital.

"The UK government's vast, cross-border mass surveillance regime - which lets it access millions of people's communications every day - has made those protections meaningless."

Scarlet Kim, Privacy International's legal officer, said: "These practices are unlawful and violate the fundamental rights of individuals across the world, assailing privacy and chilling thought and speech. They are incompatible with open and democratic societies."

Rachel Oldroyd, of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, said: "Without adequate restrictions, the interception and mass collection of communications data by the UK government's surveillance operations, such as those carried out by GCHQ, restricts the operation of a free press, and this has a chilling effect on whistleblowers seeking to expose wrongdoing."

Griff Ferris, of Big Brother Watch, said: "UK citizens who are not suspected of any wrongdoing should be able to live their lives in both the physical and the digital world safely and securely without such government intrusion."

News Code: 24013
Published Date: Tuesday 7 November 2017 - 14:33:10
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