Amnesty International, Liberty, and Privacy International announced on Wednesday that they have filed a joint application at the European Court of Human Rights after the groups said they “exhausted” all legal avenues in the UK.
They proclaimed that UK laws, which helped clear intelligence agencies of any wrongdoing, are “in breach of the human rights to privacy, freedom of expression and non-discrimination guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights.” By filing a complaint with Europe’s highest human rights court, the groups hope that “GCHQ is finally held accountable for its unfettered spying on the world’s communications.”
The challenge comes due to the UK government’s increasing mass surveillance practices and the queries over the legality of these practices. The security services have been found to be in violation of UK law this year exploiting their unlawful approach to the interception of legally-privileged information between client and lawyer. The cases were heard in the secretive Investigative Powers Tribunal, with considerable portions of the proceedings held in secret.
The tribunal also found that the intelligence-sharing relationship between the UK and the US was unlawful before December 2014, because of the secret rules that govern the UK’s access to US mass electronic surveillance programs including the clandestine PRISM system.
The court asked whether the group’s complaints were raised before the U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a secret court that can investigate complaints about any alleged conduct by the intelligence services. It is the only U.K. tribunal to whom complaints about the intelligence services can be directed.
The groups however did not go to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.