Hot on the heels of recent revelations that the U.S. Government has been spying on members of several foreign governments and organizations, comes allegations the British Government has spied on various rights groups including the well respected yet often time politically inconvenient Amnesty International.
Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general said the British government has admitted that its version of the CIA – GCHQ – spied on campaigners at the human rights group.
She said Amnesty had received an email from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), the organization that polices the UK’s surveillance of citizens, which confirmed the government bugged and intercepted its communications and then stored the details.
“How can we be expected to carry out our crucial work around the world if human rights defenders and victims of abuses can now credibly believe their confidential correspondence with us is likely to end up in the hands of governments,” said Shetty.
“The revelation that the UK government has been spying on Amnesty International highlights the gross inadequacies in the UK’s surveillance legislation. If they hadn’t stored our communications for longer than they were allowed to, we would never even have known. What’s worse, this would have been considered perfectly lawful.”
In June the IPT revealed the Government had illegally spied on two other foreign human rights organizations – breaches of of Article 8, of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is something the UK government is trying to distance itself from after passing laws in May that allow for domestic surveillance.
“After 18 months of litigation and all the denials and subterfuge that entailed, we now have confirmation that we were in fact subjected to UK government mass surveillance,” Shetty said. “It’s outrageous that what has been often presented as being the domain of despotic rulers has been occurring on British soil, by the British government.”
The IPT was set up by Tony Blair in 2000 under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), as a tool against terrorism but since then it has been abused on many occasions including by town and city councils to monitor families to make sure their children were attending the correct school districts, and by police to spy on reporters. There have even been cases of corrupt police finding out information for criminals.