The United Nations Human Rights Committee is concerned that the U.S. violated basic human rights including the right to privacy.
“The mass communications surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden demonstrates a shocking disregard by the US for the privacy rights of both those inside the country and those abroad,” said Andrea Prasow, senior national security counsel and advocate at Human Rights Watch. “The US review is the perfect time for the Human Rights Committee to make clear that mass communications surveillance, whether against a country’s own citizens or another country’s, violates basic rights.”
From The Voice of Russia:
Andrea Prasow, a senior counsel with the Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program at Human Rights Watch, in an interview to the Voice of Russia says the US review is the perfect time to make clear that mass communications surveillance, whether against a country’s own citizens or another country, violates basic rights.
Could you give us a brief comment on what is expected from that review? Who is to present the US during this session?
The US has sent a delegation of 32 officials, primarily federal officials, although there are some representatives from state and local governments because of course the international obligations are binding on each state as a whole, whether it is a state like the US that has local governments or a unitary state. So, the US is responsible for enforcing and complying with the human rights obligations at every level of the US government. So, those 32 officials will be here to defend the US human rights record, to answer questions from the Human Rights Committee about specific examples of the central violations and to respond to concerns that civil society members have raised over the last week before both the Human Rights Committee and the US delegation.
If the committee concludes US electronic surveillance violates fundamental human rights, what the consequences will be? What actions will it require from the US?
A strong statement from the human rights committee which I think is absolutely appropriate will cause the US, I hope, to reexamine its mass communications surveillance practices. This is the first time that the US is under review or any of the states that are involved in significant mass communications surveillance are under review since the revelations of Edward Snowden of last year. So, this is the first opportunity for the human rights committee to really grapple with these issues. So, we are hoping that they will be pressing the US government on its respect of the rights of privacy both inside the US and outside the US, for US citizens and for foreigners, and ultimately the committee will issue some strong language prompting the US to revisit its practices.
Recently President Obama has introduced a number of curbs on the NSA data use. Do you think that anything has changed since that time? Were these reforms truly substantial?
It is hard to tell because keep in mind that the only reason that public is aware of a significant portion of the mass surveillance is because of the Snowden leaks. So, we still don’t know what we don’t know. It is hard to tell how much the reforms will have made any difference if at all, but the US obviously needs to put forward with disclosing even more information and finding ways to make sure that it does respect individuals rights to privacy.
How much did the revelations about NSA eavesdropping and collection of metadata affected the US image on the international political scene?
Of course, the US is not the only country that in involved in mass communication surveillance. Many countries share information with the US, for the US program, the US shares information with other countries and many countries, particularly countries that suppress human rights are engaged in surveillance of a more targeted form of human rights activists and human rights defenders. So, surveillance is not a US only problem. When 80% of the Internet traffic is going through the US or being connected to the US servers, the US companies, the US is a primary actor in this field. So, I think the revelations from Snowden have prompted an international dialogue on this issue. I think that is important, it is valuable. It should have happened sooner but I am glad that we are able to have this conversation now on the international stage.