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    February 06, 2015

    Amnesty International UK Release

    ‘This is an historic victory in the age-old battle for the right to privacy and free expression’ – Rachel Logan

    Amnesty International and others won an historic victory today as the legal body that oversees the practices of the UK secret services acknowledged that the USA and the UK’s intelligence sharing on communications surveillance violated human rights law.

    Today’s ruling was handed down by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which has jurisdiction over the practices of GCHQ, MI5 and MI6. The Tribunal said that until now, the UK government’s procedures' for “receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications of individuals located in the UK, which have been obtained by US authorities” violated international human rights standards.

    “This is an historic victory in the age-old battle for the right to privacy and free expression,” said Rachel Logan, Amnesty UK’s legal programme director.

    January 30, 2015

    The UK authorities must respond urgently to a statement today by a former Bush Administration staffer that interrogations of CIA detainees took place on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, Amnesty International said.

    Lawrence Wilkerson the Chief of Staff to the former US Secretary of State Colin Powell told Vice News that after leaving office in 2005, intelligence sources had informed him that Diego Garcia had been used as a site “where people were temporarily housed and interrogated from time to time."

    "The UK has consistently evaded the question of Diego Garcia. This new information must finally trigger a truthful response from the UK authorities. Was Diego Garcia used for detention and interrogation by the USA? And if so, who will be held to account for those patently illegal practices?," said Julia Hall, Amnesty International's expert on counter-terrorism and human rights.

    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 24, 2014

    ‘A request to the European Court must be lodged within the next two weeks. The clock is ticking’ - Colm O’Gorman

    Allegations that the UK government sanctioned the use of torture and ill-treatment in Northern Ireland in the 1970s should be re-examined by the European Court of Human Rights and subject to a new independent investigation. 

    That is the call from Amnesty International, which is urging the Irish government to request a re-opening of the landmark 1978 Ireland v UK judgment involving the torture and ill-treatment of the 14 so-called ‘hooded men’, who were interned in Northern Ireland in 1971.

    The call was supported by the ‘hooded men’ at an Amnesty International press conference in Dublin this morning.

    November 20, 2014

    UK authorities must launch a long-overdue criminal investigation into a British company’s role in one of the worst toxic waste dumping incidents of the last decade, Amnesty International said today after the Environment Agency finally agreed to review evidence submitted by the organization.

    It took the threat of court action for the agency to backpedal from its earlier refusal to review a legal brief making the case that UK-based Trafigura Limited may have conspired to dump the toxic waste in Côte d’Ivoire.

    The August 2006 incident triggered an environmental and health disaster in Abidjan: at least 15 people are reported to have died, more than 100,000 sought urgent medical assistance and contamination still lingers despite extensive clean-up.

    “Refusing to investigate Trafigura’s role in what was a devastating crime showed contempt for the UK’s international human rights obligations. The glaring absence of any deterrent gives UK-based corporations a green light to commit serious abuses abroad,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International. 

    October 30, 2014

    Today’s decision of the Court of Appeal in London permitting a lawsuit regarding illegal transfer, torture and other ill-treatment to proceed puts the onus on the UK government to answer allegations for its role in a notorious rendition case, Amnesty International said.

    Abdul Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, a married couple, demand justice for their abduction in 2004 and their illegal transfer to Libya where they were detained, tortured and ill-treated at the hands of the US and Libyan governments, with the knowledge and cooperation of UK officials.

    “The government argued that UK officials should not be held responsible for their involvement in human rights violations, including torture, as long as such illegal acts were committed in cooperation with a foreign government and outside the UK. The Appeals Court rightly rejected this argument,” said John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia programme.

    July 18, 2014

    Today's closure of a week-long hearing into allegations that the UK government has been illegally intercepting millions of communications, including those of Amnesty International, concludes an exercise that often descended into pure farce, the organization said.

    "This week's hearing descended at times into the realms of farce and fantasy - thanks to the government's insistence they would neither confirm nor deny any of their surveillance activities," said Michael Bochenek, Amnesty International's Senior Director for Law and Policy, speaking at the close of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal hearing.

    "Without being able to deal with concrete examples, discussing the lawfulness of mass surveillance became an exercise in absurdity. We were pursuing our challenge in a legal black hole."

    July 11, 2014

    Amnesty International and Privacy International have accused the UK government of trying to rush through legislation in an attempt to deflect from a landmark hearing starting Monday, challenging the validity of UK spy agencies’ justification for mass surveillance of British citizens’ social media use.

    “The UK government is manipulating national laws to ensure it can continue to flout international ones,” said Michael Bochenek, Senior Director for Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    “Clearly Number 10 would rather move the goalposts than play by the rules.”

    Just two working days before the start of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal hearing, UK Home Secretary Theresa May announced that the government is fast-tracking a new bill regulating internet surveillance, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill. She claimed the draft law will ‘put beyond doubt the application of our laws on interception’.

    June 17, 2014

    Britain’s top counter-terrorism official has been forced to reveal a secret government policy justifying the mass surveillance of every Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Google user in the UK, a group of rights organizations announced today.

    The organizations published the policy, described in a written statement by Charles Farr, Director General of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, after they brought a legal challenge against the UK government.

    The document reveals that UK intelligence agency GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) believes it is entitled to indiscriminately intercept web searches by British residents or communications between British residents.

    “British citizens will be alarmed to see their government justifying industrial-scale intrusion into their communications,” said Michael Bochenek, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Law and Policy.

    “The public should demand an end to this wholesale violation of their right to privacy.” 

    February 19, 2014

    The High Court of England and Wales struck a blow against freedom of expression today when it ruled that the nine-hour detention of David Michael Miranda, partner of the former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, under anti-terrorism legislation was lawful and proportionate.

    Brazilian national David Miranda was detained in August 2013 while in transit in London’s Heathrow airport. He was held for nearly nine hours under Schedule 7 of the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000 – the limit allowed without seeking further authority to continue the detention.

    “This ruling underscores our long-standing concerns about the over-broad nature of the UK’s anti-terror laws, which are wide open to abuse and misuse,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “It is clearly deeply troubling if laws designed to combat terrorism can be used against those involved in reporting stories of fundamental public interest. There is no question the ruling will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the future.”

    December 19, 2013

    ‘Today’s announcement is yet another effort by the UK to shirk its responsibility to get at the full truth’ - John Dalhuisen

    Responding to today’s announcement from the Minister without Portfolio Ken Clarke that the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee will examine allegations of UK involvement in torture and other human rights violations concerning people detained overseas in the context of counter terrorism operations, Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen said:

    “Today’s announcement about how the UK government now intends to address torture allegation is as disappointing as it is predictable.

    The interim report of the Detainee Inquiry has identified 27 issues for further examination, underscoring the need for an effective, independent, human rights-compliant inquiry.

    Combating torture requires coming clean about when and where it occurred, identifying who was involved, and holding those responsible to account.

    December 09, 2013

    Amnesty International has today announced it has issued a claim against the UK over concerns that the organisation’s communications have been unlawfully accessed by the UK intelligence services.

    In June disclosures made by the US whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed that the US was routinely accessing the communications of millions of people through a previously secret programme, PRISM, run by the National Security Agency (NSA) which the UK authorities had access to. It later emerged that the UK’s intelligence agency GCHQ may have also subjected people to blanket surveillance through its own secret programme called Tempora.

    These revelations starkly exposed the huge gaps in the ability of the existing UK legal framework to keep pace with technological developments and therefore protect the human rights of those affected

    Amnesty believes that given the global and often highly sensitive nature of its work, it is highly likely that the organisation’s communications have been intercepted unlawfully by intelligence services both in the UK and US, as the content would be of interest to those agencies.

    November 20, 2013

    The Northern Ireland Attorney General’s call for an end to prosecutions for killings during three decades of political violence in Northern Ireland is an utter betrayal of victims’ fundamental rights to justice, Amnesty International said today.

    Attorney General John Larkin said there should be no inquests, inquiries and prosecutions into any killings that took place before the signing of the Good Friday/Belfast  Agreement in 1998.

    John Dalhuisen, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Program, said:

    “The Attorney General’s call today would in effect be the granting of a blanket amnesty for human rights abuses and violations committed by all sides during the three decades of political violence in Northern Ireland. It would be an utter betrayal of victims’ fundamental right to justice.

    “Such a move would fly in the face of international human rights standards and perpetuate impunity.

    September 12, 2013

    “There’s a cruel irony in the fact that Northern Ireland is held up as a success story when many victims' families actually consider their treatment a failure.”

    Victims of the conflict in Northern Ireland are being ‘disgracefully let down’ by a flawed and fragmented approach to dealing with the past, Amnesty International said today (Thursday 12 September) as it published a new report.

    Northern Ireland: Time to Deal with the Past blames the failure to deliver truth and justice on a lack of political will from both the UK government and Northern Ireland’s political parties.

    Fifteen years on from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, and one week ahead of the start of major new talks, the 78-page report finds that victims and their families have been failed by successive attempts to investigate abuses.

    A failure to deliver a comprehensive approach to dealing with the past has contributed to the societal division that is still rife in Northern Ireland, Amnesty found.

    August 20, 2013

    Pressure placed on the Guardian newspaper by UK authorities to destroy documents represent a threat to freedom of expression, the right to information and protecting the independence of the media in the UK, Amnesty International said today.

    The Guardian has reported that the UK authorities repeatedly threatened the newspaper’s management with legal action and led to it being forced to destroy information it had received from the US whistleblower Edward Snowden. This information is about unlawful surveillance by the US and the UK governments which violates their citizens’ and other people’s right to privacy.

    “Insisting that the Guardian destroy information received from a whistleblower is a sinister turn of events,” said Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    “This is an example of the government trying to undermine press freedoms. It also seriously undermines the right of the public to know what governments do with their personal and private information. If confirmed, these actions expose the UK’s hypocrisy as it pushes for freedom of expression overseas.

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