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Pakistan human rights group sues UK government over surveillance program

Bytes for All (B4A) [advocacy website], a Pakistani human rights organization focusing on information and communication technologies, has filed suit [complaint] with the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (ITP) [official website] against the British government for its cable-tapping program, Tempora. B4A is partnered with Privacy International [advocacy website], which filed a similar suit [wired report] last July. B4A's claim states that the UK's mass surveillance activities, including Tempora, violate the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) [text] by failing to protect privacy and freedom of expression, and that they disproportionately affect those who are not UK citizens. The suit's argument is set apart from past similar arguments by its inclusion of discriminatory factors under Article 14 of the ECHR as well. Tempora [Wired report] is a program of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) [official website]. The GCHQ placed data interceptors on fiber-optic cables that carry internet data in and out of the UK, including transatlantic cables carrying data between the US and Europe. B4A is asking the Tribunal, which was created to deal with complaints regarding surveillance by UK public bodies, to issue a declaration that such programs are unlawful as well as an order to destroy any unlawfully obtained material.

The revelations following the disclosure of the National Security Administration's (NSA) [official website] surveillance programs have sparked worldwide debate and controversy [JURIST op-eds]. In December Amnesty International announced [JURIST report] that it had filed a complaint against the UK government over concerns that the country's intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters, unlawfully accessed AI's communications. Also in December, UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism Ben Emmerson stated that he plans to launch an investigation [JURIST report] into the surveillance activities of the NSA and the GCHQ. US Senators announced new legislation [JURIST report] in September in a bipartisan effort to reform surveillance laws. Earlier that month the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] urged the Obama administration [JURIST report] to curb the FBI's surveillance powers, despite the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's [official website] release of a previously classified opinion justifying [JURIST report] the need for the NSA's surveillance program. In August the Council of Europe [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] over the UK reaction to the exposure of the US surveillance program, which included orders to employees to destroy certain government computer equipment. Claims stemming Snowden's revelations were filed [JURIST report] in the ECHR in October that allege that the NSA's massive online surveillance programs, which are able to read the content of e-mails and social media messages, have breached the privacy of tens of millions of people across the UK and Europe.

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