Human Rights and Spying – Does Government Spying Violate Human Rights Law?

This article originally appeared in Right Now.

Last year, worldwide media was captivated by the revelations brought about by Edward Snowden, that the US, as part of the “5-eyes” program along with the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have conducted a worldwide systemic surveillance of communication data. As Snowden, an ex National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, revealed, thesurveillance includes metadata, location data, text messages, emails and even voice records.

Such data is not obtained via the traditional process of obtaining a warrant, but rather collected and stored on a mass scale despite any suspicion or cause for surveillance. More worrying, as Snowden pointed out in a recent media interview, is the way the members of the “5-eyes” spy program bypass domestic laws through partnering with other members. While Australia cannot spy on its own citizens without legal process, Canada, New Zealand, UK or US can collect and share such data under this arrangement. As such, as domestic laws have often failed to protect the privacy of the public, it is important to look towards international human rights laws to protect the right to privacy.

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Australia Violates almost 150 Human Rights Obligations under ICCPR

The Human Rights Committee, acting under article 5, paragraph 4, of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is of the view that the State party has violated the authors’ rights under articles 7, and 9, paragraphs 1, and 4 of the Covenant.

The UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva found that Australia has committed 143 serious violations of international law by indefinitely detaining 46 refugees for four years, on the basis of their ‘adverse security assessments’ issued by ASIO, according to Professor Ben Saul.

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