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Cybersecurity & Standards, Government Surveillance

UN Human Rights Council Highlights US Surveillance Abuses

Today, the United Nations Human Rights Council conducted its second Universal Periodic Review of the United States’ human rights practices. During this process, UN Members States have the opportunity to raise concerns about a country’s human rights record, highlighting particular concerns or areas for clarification. The human rights implications of large-scale government surveillance were a prominent topic of criticism by more than a dozen countries. The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and the ACLU submitted a shadow report on five particularly egregious US surveillance programs in advance of the review, and CDT previewed the process last week.

“The global community has said firmly that the US must address its surveillance-related human rights abuses. The US cannot continue to ignore these calls for action,” said Sarah St. Vincent, Human Rights and Surveillance Legal fellow at CDT.

The UN Human Rights Council review comes just days before surveillance reform legislation is to be taken up in Congress and follows last week’s ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that the NSA bulk collection is not legal under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.

“The Council’s proceedings have put additional pressure on the US to reform its surveillance practices not just in the US, but around the world,” St. Vincent added.  “They’ve highlighted the need to ensure that all surveillance programs respect the rights to privacy and free expression for everyone, at all times.”

At least 17 nations questioned the US on its surveillance practices, raising issues related to the interception of private data, transparency, redress for violations, and the rights of individuals being monitored outside of the US’ borders. CDT will provide additional analysis of the proceedings later this week.