25 May 2021 – The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights today ruled that the UK’s mass interception programmes, disclosed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, unlawfully breached citizens’ rights to privacy and free expression.
Campaign groups Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group, English PEN, and computer science expert Dr. Constanze Kurz brought the challenge following Mr Snowden’s revelations in 2013, joined by Amnesty International, Liberty, Privacy International, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and others.
The judgment confirms definitively that the UK’s bulk interception practices were unlawful for decades, a finding that vindicates Mr Snowden’s whistleblowing.
Can Yeğinsu, Trustee of English PEN and Lead Counsel to Center for Democracy & Technology in the case, said:
“There is no doubt this is a landmark judgment. Not only has the Grand Chamber ruled on the lawfulness of the statutory scheme governing surveillance in the UK at the time, but it has also set out robust international minimum standards of protection for privacy and freedom of expression for future such regimes, applicable across the Council of Europe states. The new express protection for journalistic sources is especially welcome.”
Daniel Gorman, Director of English PEN, said:
“This major judgment reaffirms that the British government’s bulk surveillance practices have violated our right to privacy and our right to freedom of expression. Excessive surveillance discourages whistleblowing and curtails investigative journalism. The government must now take action to ensure our rights are protected. Given the growth in online speech, the potential for abuse inherent in mass surveillance regimes is greater than ever.”
To read our joint response, please visit: https://bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/2021/05/uk-mass-surveillance-found-unlawful-by-europes-highest-human-rights-court/