ARTICLE19: USA must be hold accountable for mass surveillance

3 Nov
United States Capitol

United States Capitol (Photo credit: Jack in DC)

ARTICLE 19 has joined a coalition of NGOs to call on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to hold the USA accountable to its freedom of expression and privacy obligations, following revelations of its mass-surveillance programmes.

On 28 October the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) started its first examination of the USA’s mass surveillance programmes, assessing them against international human rights law obligations.

The USA has declined to submit a testimony at the hearing, but most public explanations have described the following safeguards:

  • The programmes are used solely for the protection of national security
  • They do not violate the privacy of USA citizens or those within the USA
  • They observe domestic law and legal protections.

However, information from both the media and other governments indicates that the USA has monitored the digital communications not only of millions of people worldwide, but also heads of state and companies from countries as diverse as Germany to Brazil, indicating other motives in addition to protecting national security.

ARTICLE 19 believes that none of the USA’s explanations provide sufficient justification under international human rights law for such widespread interference with the rights to privacy and freedom of expression, and has joined calls to the IACHR to hold the USA accountable.

ARTICLE 19 is also concerned that the USA has failed to refrain from untargeted surveillance. According to the government, all measures have supposedly been taken to respect the privacy of American citizens and those in US territories.

However no legal protections apply to those outside the USA and the government has shown complete disregard for the basic tenet of international law that fundamental human rights are universal irrespective of geographical location or citizenship status.

ARTICLE 19 has joined the coalition of NGOs, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, among others, to call on the IACHR to urge the USA to meet its obligations under the American Convention of Human Rights.

The government of the USA stated that due to its domestic shutdown, it was unable to prepare for the hearing in advance, although it has 30 days remaining to present a written response.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the USA to take this opportunity to articulate how safeguards to its mass surveillance programmes fulfil the state’s obligations under the American Convention on Human Rights. Source: Article19

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