[JURIST] Ninety-two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world on Friday issued an oral statement [text] calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council [official website] to institute a Special Rapporteur on Privacy, citing a pressing need for the provision of continuous and authoritative guidance on the scope and content of the right to privacy. The group of NGOs, which include International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy websites] request [ICJ report] in the joint statement that such a mandate be established at the UN Human Rights Council’s current session, saying that the UN General Assembly, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and existing procedure mandate holders have clearly recognized the need for guidance regarding the right to privacy set forth in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [texts]. This step, the organizations said, would make an “essential contribution to the development of a coherent and complementary approach to the interaction between privacy, freedom of expression and other human rights,” and would enable the Council to “play a leading role in strengthening the promotion and protection of the right to privacy.”
Privacy has become a matter of increasing concern around the world in recent years. Many governments have sought to bolster data-retention programs in an attempt to more effectively monitor terrorism and other illegal activities. Earlier this month the District Court of the Hague struck down [JURIST report] a Dutch data retention law, holding that it violates privacy rights of EU citizens. In July former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern [JURIST report] over the widespread lack of transparency in governmental digital surveillance practices. Also in July civil liberties groups sued [JURIST report] the UK Secret Intelligence Service [official website], alleging that the agency unlawfully accesses private data from undersea cables. In April the European Court of Justice [official website] struck down [JURIST report] an EU-wide law that stipulates how private data must be collected and stored.