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Surveillance, Security and Human Rights

    July 01, 2015

    In a shocking revelation, the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) today notified Amnesty International that UK government agencies had spied on the organization by intercepting, accessing and storing its communications.

    In an email sent today, the Tribunal informed Amnesty International its 22 June ruling had mistakenly identified one of two NGOs which it found had been subjected to unlawful surveillance by the UK government. Today’s communication makes clear that it was actually Amnesty International Ltd, and not the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) that was spied on in addition to the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa.

    The NGOs were among 10 organizations that launched a legal challenge against suspected unlawful mass surveillance of their work by the UK’s spy agencies.

    July 01, 2015

    The Chinese government must immediately repeal a new national security law that gives the authorities sweeping powers to crack down on and suppress human rights, Amnesty International said.

    China's legislature today passed the law which defines "national security" in broad and vague terms, covering areas including politics, culture, finance and the internet.

    "The definition of 'national security' under the law is virtually limitless. The law gives a blank cheque to the government to punish and monitor anyone it does not like - human rights activists, government critics and other opposition voices," said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International's Regional Director for East Asia.

    "The law clearly has more to do with protecting the Communist Party's control of the country than with national security. The leadership of the Party and its monopoly on political power is explicitly listed as being part of 'national security' in the law."

    April 24, 2015

    UPDATE May 7, 2015: After a temporary stay while an Alberta court ruled on the government's unsuccessful attempt to seek an injunction, Omar Khadr was released today on strict bail conditions including electronic monitoring and a curfew. Omar Khadr spent over 12 years in prison following his capture by US forces in 2002, mostly in the notorious Guantanamo Bay facility. He was transferred to Canada in 2012. You can send a message to Omar here.

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexNeveAmnesty

    It is easy to lose sight of the number of Canadian judges that have, over the past decade, ruled in favour of Omar Khadr.  It has truly become staggering and includes justices of the Supreme Court of Canada (not once, but twice), the Federal Court of Appeal and Federal Court numerous times, and the Alberta Court of Appeal. 

    April 13, 2015

    (Nairobi, April 13, 2015) – The Kenyan government should urgently review the inclusion of human rights organizations on an official list of alleged supporters of terrorism and ensure full respect of due process, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.

    The list is comprised of 86 individuals and entities, and includes two human rights groups, Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) and Haki Africa.  The list was published in the official government gazette on April 7, 2015, days after the attack on Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya in which 147 people, including 142 students, were killed. The militant Islamist group, Al-Shabaab, claimed responsibility for the attack.

    March 18, 2015

    Your two-minute #UnfollowMe guide to how our governments are collecting and monitoring all our private data. (With thanks to Privacy International.)

    March 11, 2015

    Amnesty International USA has gone to court, represented by the ACLU, because in a world under threat of constant, all-encompassing surveillance, our work to protect human rights is made much harder.

    The U.S. surveillance machine is thwarting Amnesty International USA’s ability to protect people from human rights violations: including governments that torture, kidnap and extrajudiciallly kill people for their non-violent protest, dissent and activism.

    Here are 8 facts you need to know about how Amnesty International works – and why mass surveillance harms our ability to protect human rights:

    1. Amnesty International bears witness to brutality, violence and atrocities. We send researchers into conflict zones. We are on the ground in places throughout the world to collect evidence of human rights abuses.

    We ask people to tell us the horrors they saw – whether they are the witnesses or the lone survivors.

    March 10, 2015

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexNeveAmnesty

    Want to feel more secure?  Bill C-51, which is being examined by a Parliamentary committee in  three weeks of truncated hearings, offers up criminal offences that infringe free expression, unprecedented intrusive intelligence powers, breathtakingly vast definitions of security, unbridled sharing of information and stunning levels of secrecy; all while doing nothing to enhance review, oversight and accountability of Canada’s national security agencies. 

    The message is that human rights have to give way to keep terrorism at bay.  The relationship between the two is seen as a zero-sum game.  More safety means fewer rights.  Stronger regard for rights leads to greater insecurity.

    It is time to turn that around.  Human rights do not stand in the way of security that is universal, durable and inclusive.  Human rights are in fact the very key.

    February 26, 2015

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AlexNeveAmnesty

    There is so much packed into the government’s current national security law reform, it is hard to know where to focus.  Bills C-44 and C-51, currently before Parliament, constitute the most substantial and controversial overhaul of Canada’s national security landscape since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

    The weeks to come will see much debate about the human rights consequences of CSIS’ unprecedented new powers to act to reduce security threats and to apply for Federal Court warrants authorizing Charter violations as part of that process. 

    There will be discussion of the vagueness of the new criminal offence of advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general and the certainty that this will both intrude on and chill free expression in the country. 

    February 25, 2015

    By Tanya O'Carroll, adviser in Amnesty International's Technology and Human Rights program. Follow her on Twitter @TanyaOCarroll

    'Every border you cross, every purchase you make, every call you dial, every cell phone tower you pass, friend you keep, article you write, site you visit… is in the hands of a system whose reach is unlimited but whose safeguards are not.'
    Edward Snowden, CITIZENFOUR

    In June 2013, Edward Snowden revealed the shocking extent of government spy networks across the world. The documents he released laid bare how governments are using illegal, mass surveillance to collect, store and analyse millions of people’s private communications around the world.

    It is almost two years since Snowden’s first disclosures. CITIZENFOUR, the powerful film directed by Laura Poitras, documents those tense days when the revelations first hit, with Snowden confined to his hotel room as the storm erupts. On Saturday the film was awarded an Oscar for best documentary 2014.

    February 23, 2015
    by Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. This article was orginally published in Slaw, Canada's online legal magazine. Human rights violations are always most likely to occur when no one is watching over the police, soldiers and guards who have the power and potential to commit abuses. That is certainly even more the case when secrecy is prevalent; which obviously describes the world of national security investigations and operations. That is why human rights organizations, experts and bodies – national and international – have long stressed that effective review and oversight must be central to the imperative of ensuring that human rights protection is not sacrificed in any country’s rush to uphold national security.
    February 19, 2015

    Today, a group of 22 eminent Canadians, comprised of former Prime Ministers, Ministers of Justice, Ministers of Public Safety, Solicitors General, Supreme Court of Canada Justices, and members of national security, law enforcement and privacy review bodies, published a statement in The Globe and Mail and La Presse calling urgently for an enhanced approach to national security review and oversight in the country.  The group includes men and women whose public service, in areas where they have been responsible for addressing wide-ranging national security challenges, stretches from 1968 to 2014.

    This important statement comes at a time when Canada is considering a radical expansion of national security powers across government, but has made no equivalent proposals for strengthened review and oversight of the agencies and departments responsible for national security.

    December 05, 2014

    An Amnesty International UK Release

    “We will now appeal to Strasbourg, who might not be as inclined to put their trust in the UK government given what we know so far.”- Rachel Logan

    The tribunal which oversees the practices of the UK secret services today ruled that the law governing the UK’s communications surveillance practices complies with the Human Rights Act, in what Amnesty International said was a ‘disappointing if unsurprising’ ruling which will now be appealed in Strasbourg.

    The decision by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) is part of a legal challenge against the UK intelligence agencies brought by Amnesty International, Privacy International, Liberty and others following revelations by US whistleblower Edward Snowden. It says that there are sufficient clear limits in law and sufficient oversight of the government’s surveillance practices to satisfy its human rights obligations.

    November 03, 2014

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, John Packer, Director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of Ottawa,and Roch Tassé, National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.

    A timely conference on Wednesday reminded us that as debate swirls about new national security measures in Canada, vital lessons have emerged over the past decade about protecting human rights.

    In the wake of last week’s attack in Ottawa the government is rolling out proposed changes to Canada’s security laws and practices. We don’t yet know the full extent.

    On Wednesday, a remarkable group of judges, lawyers, journalists, activists, former diplomats, academics and community leaders came together in Ottawa. We were joined by individuals whose lives have been turned upside down by human rights violations associated with national security investigations, charges, arrest and imprisonment.

    October 28, 2014

    By Omar Khadr, former Guatanamo Bay detainee

    Ten years ago the Canadian government established a judicial inquiry into the case of Maher Arar. That inquiry, over the course of more than two years of ground-breaking work, examined how Canada’s post-Sept. 11 security practices led to serious human rights violations, including torture.

    At that same time, 10 years ago and far away from a Canadian hearing room, I was mired in a nightmare of injustice, insidiously linked to national security. I have not yet escaped from that nightmare.

    As Canada once again grapples with concerns about terrorism, my experience stands as a cautionary reminder. Security laws and practices that are excessive, misguided or tainted by prejudice can have a devastating human toll.

    A conference Wednesday in Ottawa, convened by Amnesty International, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group and the University of Ottawa, will reflect on these past 10 years of national security and human rights. I will be watching, hoping that an avenue opens to leave my decade of injustice behind.

    October 22, 2014

    The attacks near and in Parliament today have shaken all of us, in Ottawa and across Canada. 

    There is deep sadness at the news that a soldier standing guard at Canada’s War Memorial has been shot and later died from his resulting injuries.  Our thoughts are with the soldier’s family and friends and with any individuals who have been injured in today’s shootings. 

    The news that a gunman, who has been shot and killed, mounted an attack inside Parliament has left all Canadians troubled and unsettled.  The possibility that one or more other suspects may remain at large is of course deeply worrying.

    Amnesty International will watch closely as more detailed information about today’s tragic events emerges.  We continue to be supportive of security and law enforcement measures that respond to violence and threats of this nature in keeping with human rights safeguards that are at the very heart of justice and security.
     

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