Letter: Surveillance in Europe
Index on Censorship calls on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to investigate mass surveillance and protect whistleblowers
29 Aug 13

Index on Censorship calls on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to investigate mass surveillance and protect whistleblowers


To: Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

Re: Motion for a resolution – Doc. 13288: Massive eavesdropping in Europe

We, the undersigned representatives of international and national human rights and freedom of expression organizations – ARTICLE 19, Reporters Without Borders, Privacy International, EDRI, Vrijschrift, Open Rights Group, INDEX, English PEN and Access Now – strongly urge the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to support the Resolution: Massive Eavesdropping in Europe, tabled on 31 July 2013 by 23 members of the PACE.

The resolution calls on member states to regulate and effectively oversee the secret services and special procedures and to pass legislative provisions at the national level to protect whistleblowers. The resolution also calls  upon the Secretary General to launch an inquiry under Article 52 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Our organizations support this timely resolution and remain concerned about recent revelations of surveillance of internet and telephone communications by the governments of the USA and the Council of Europe’s members, including France, Germany, Turkey and the United Kingdom. These revelations suggest a blatant and systematic disregard for human rights as articulated in Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and other international and European treaties.

The blanket application of surveillance mechanisms to global digital communications drastically threatens the protection of human rights in the digital age. We remind the PACE members that in his June 2013 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, highlighted the negative impact of surveillance on civil liberties, including the right to inform and be informed, freedom of expression and respect for privacy. We believe that the proposal, formulated in the PACE Resolution, could offer an invaluable assessment of the strength of legal safeguards for right to freedom of expression and privacy in the Council of Europe member states and offer a unique insight into the legal framework of surveillance.

Further, we also support the emphasis of the proposed Resolution on the need to protect whistleblowers. Whistleblowers play a critical role in promoting transparency and upholding the human rights and interests of all members of society. PACE must strengthen this protection of whistleblowers and support efforts to combat violations of fundamental human rights

We therefore call on all PACE members support the motion for the Resolution. In particular, at this stage, we call on the Presidential Committee to start an investigation into the matter and appoint a rapporteur for it.



Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19

Antoine Héry, Reporters Without Borders

Dr Gus Hosein, Privacy International

Jim Killock, Open Rights Group

Marek Marczynski, INDEX

Jo McNamee, EDRI

Walter van Holst, Vrijschrift

Jo Glanville, English PEN

Brett Solomon, Access Now

By Padraig Reidy

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms and a columnist for Index on Censorship. He has also written for The Observer, The Guardian, and The Irish Times.