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Case Studies

Terror rights report

Laws and amendments passed at speed are undermining fundamental freedoms and dismantling human rights protections, says the campaign group Amnesty International. It’s brought out a report, Dangerously disproportionate: The ever-expanding national security state in Europe.

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe, said: “In the wake of a series of appalling attacks, from Paris to Berlin, governments have rushed through a raft of disproportionate and discriminatory laws. Taken alone these individual counter-terrorism measures are worrying enough, but when seen together, a disturbing picture emerges in which unchecked powers are trampling freedoms that have long been taken for granted.”

The report, based on more than two years’ research across 14 European Union member states, as well as analysis of initiatives at international and European levels, claims new legislation and policies intended to address the threat of terrorism have steamrolled rights protections. It says that in several countries, counter-terrorism measures have been proposed or enacted that have eroded the rule of law, enhanced executive powers, peeled away judicial controls, restricted freedom of expression and exposed everyone to unchecked government surveillance. The impact on foreigners and ethnic and religious minorities has been particularly profound.

In a modern twist of the Orwellian “thought crime”, people can now be prosecuted for actions that have tenuous links to actual crime, says Amnesty. With counter-terror measures focusing ever more on prevention, governments have invested in “pre-crime” and use of administrative control orders to restrict people’s freedom of movement and other rights. This has led to people being placed under curfew, given travel bans or electronically tagged without being charged with or convicted of any crime. In these cases evidence is often kept secret. Amnesty gives the example of Poland’s 2016 Counter-terrorism Law, which permits covert surveillance measures targeting foreign nationals, including wire-tapping, monitoring of electronic communications, and surveillance of telecommunications networks and devices without judicial oversight for three months. Amnesty says that discriminatory measures have had a disproportionate and profoundly negative impact on Muslims, foreign nationals or people perceived to be Muslim or foreign. Discriminatory action by the state and its agents is increasingly seen as “acceptable” in the national security context, it argues.

John Dalhuisen said: “Whilst the threat posed by terrorism is very real and must always be responded to resolutely, the role of governments should be to provide security for people to enjoy their rights rather than restricting people’s rights in the name security. EU governments are using counter-terrorism measures to consolidate draconian powers, target groups in discriminatory ways and strip away human rights under the guise of defending them. We are in danger of creating societies in which liberty becomes the exception and fear the rule.”


Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange, says: “Amnesty International is right to call out the UK for its assault on privacy rights. The Snoopers’ Charter grants excessive powers to a government which has not consulted the tech community or considered the ramifications of bulk data collection. Without independent judicial oversight and warrants, these bulk data collection powers are the tools of a dictatorship.”


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