London – CAGE supports the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights that the British government’s bulk surveillance of online communications revealed by Edward Snowden, violated privacy and failed to provide safeguards. However, we call for a closer examination of pending investigatory powers granted to the UK, and continue to call for the abolition of Schedule 7[1].

The European Court has simply repeated what has always been known as a fundamental norm within privacy rights but nonetheless has been flouted by the UK authorities openly.

Under the pretext of “fighting terrorism” and exploiting fear amongst the general public for their and their loved ones’ safety, the UK security state has expanded its powers astonishingly.

We applaud the numerous organisations that pursued this case, including Big Brother Watch, Liberty and Privacy International. However, new powers will come into force soon in the UK under the Investigatory Powers Act, and the CTBS Bill seeks to grant extended powers to security services, in particular through new Schedule 7-type powers of detention and item seizure. This has happened despite warnings from several organisations that these powers extend police power disproportionately, violate rights and have created ‘suspect’ communities.

Muhammad Rabbani, CAGE International Director, said:

“Today’s ruling is an important and crucial corrective, and a stark warning to society of the dangers of a burgeoning and expansive body of national security powers. However, with the passing of the CTBS Bill to the House of Lords, it remains to be seen if this ruling has any effect on the intrusive and discriminatory Schedule 7 border stops that affect an average of more than 20 000 innocent people every year.”

Last year I was charged under Schedule 7 for not divulging the passwords to my devices despite citing client confidentiality, as I was protecting testimony from a client that provided evidence of torture by a number of US officials on US soil. I have never committed a crime. My case highlights how the UK surveillance state facilitates the criminalisation of those that seek to challenge oppression.”

“It is clear from pending legislation that despite their best efforts to convince us otherwise, surveillance as it is practiced in the UK now – and especially at its ports – is not for safety: it is done for control, and at the expense of our privacy and our right to dissent. The UK government, if it really has the well-being of its citizens at heart, should take heed of this verdict by the ECHR, and act accordingly to restore trust in society.”

[1] Read more about our Pass with Privacy campaign here.


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(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)