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International Organizations Pressure Congress to Respect Human Rights

Science & Tech  (tags: humanrights, HumanRights, 'CIVILLIBERTIES!', 'HUMANRIGHTS!', africa, asia, conflict, china, ethics, europe, freedoms, GoodNews, government, middle-east, media, politics, society, usa, world, society, safety, investigation, discovery, news )

- 2131 days ago -
a broad-based group of civil society organizations and individuals, sent a letter to the US Congress representing the international response to the massive National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program.


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JL A (281)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 10:17 am

International organizations pressure Congress to respect human rights
3:47pm | 18 June 2013 | by Lee Gensler

Deborah Brown contributed to this post.

Today Access, in coordination with a broad-based group of civil society organizations and individuals, sent a letter to the US Congress representing the international response to the massive National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program. Amidst the often US-centric response to this scandal, the letter presents an important reminder that these programs not only affect, but specifically target, non-US citizens in a gross breach of the United States’ responsibilities under international human rights law.

Much of the response to the recently revealed NSA surveillance scandal has been focused on the rights of American citizens. The Obama administration has assured the public that only foreign data is targeted, representatives in Congress have proposed legislation “to prevent the mass collection of records of innocent Americans,” and the global petition StopWatching.Us, developed by a coalition of civil society organizations, including Access, primarily appeals to Congress on the basis of US citizens’ constitutional rights.

Yet the surveillance programs have broad international implications. The basic human rights of people around the world have likely been violated as the NSA has engaged in wide scale data collection of personal information. In a hearing today before congress, General Alexander, Director of the NSA, repeatedly stated that that while the NSA does collect the content of emails and phone calls, they only “target non-US persons who are located outside of the United States.” And as the civil society letter importantly notes, this data has likely been shared with other governments.

In response to this, organizations around the globe that “work towards the promotion of human rights on the internet” have come together to express international concern through a letter addressed to Congress. The letter is signed by organizations from more than 30 countries, representing six continents, and is translated into French, Spanish, and Korean. The coalition was organized through Best Bits, a global network of civil society organizations that focus on internet governance.

In the letter, the signatories remind members of congress of their responsibilities to those around the globe under international human rights norms and conventions, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the US is a signatory. The letter reminds Congress that, “The situation of a citizen unable to communicate private thoughts without surveillance by a foreign state not only violates the rights to privacy and human dignity, but also threatens the fundamental rights to freedom of thought, opinion and expression, and association.”

The threat posed by broad-scale surveillance programs to human rights was recently highlighted in a report released by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection to the right of freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue. La Rue posits that new developments in communication technologies and surveillance severely compromise individuals’ privacy, and that, “States cannot ensure that individuals are able to freely seek and receive information or express themselves without respecting, protecting and promoting their right to privacy.”

A joint statement on the NSA case was also made last Monday at the UN Human Rights Council. This statement, which was supported by over 300 organizations, urged the body to examine the implications of government surveillance on human rights and recommend corrective steps that governments will need to take to meet human rights standards.

The United States’ hypocrisy regarding internet surveillance was also pointed out in the letter, which noted that the US recently helped draft a statement at the Human Rights Council stressing the importance of operating on the internet “in a manner consistent with states’ obligations under international human rights law.”

The letter concludes by pressing the Obama administration and Congress to dismantle these damaging programs, allow companies to publish the number of FISA requests received, and protect whistleblowers. The signatories stress the importance of international human rights laws and the responsibilities the US government has under them to those who fall outside the scope of its constitution. While these surveillance programs seemingly present serious problems regarding domestic law and the government’s responsibilities to its own citizens, this letter reminds us that the government of the United States still has a responsibility to those beyond its borders.

Read the full text of the letter here.

Michael M (60)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 11:22 am
Quite related is the refusal to sing the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights By the US, UK, Australia, NZ. just about everybody else out there, signed.

Since the US Constitution is just lip service, how about just a little lip service, instead of denial and evasion on the obsession with saving everything we've ever said, to imprison us whenever we effectively disagree?

Both ways are lies, but you can fool more of us with lip service, as you have done to those in your military and government service.

The pledge of allegiance was invented in 1892 and quickly adopted in schools. Liege is duty owed to your "better" your liege lord.
Seems like the US never really got free of feudalism/slavery/bondage.

I submit that NO one is your liege lord; instead you may choose to ally, so long as you maintain your own integrity.

Joanne Dixon (37)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 11:47 am
If I may stray just a little further off topic with Michael, besides the fact that the Pledge has been clearly unConstitutional snce "under God" was added in the fifties, many kids are too young to properly understand it. One little girl puzzled for some time about who "Richard Stands" might be.

Kit B (276)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 12:09 pm

First - Any one that some how has not signed the petition - Stop Watching Us - please do so. It is linked within the text of the article and I think on just about every browser, when signing in.

Anything the US signs, must go through the House and I have grave doubts about getting though anything even vaguely described as human rights. The only thing they have passed lately was completely in contrast with the idea of human rights. The United States still has not signed on the UN Declaration of Human Rights as Michael noted.

In what must be called a dramatic but altogether useless effort to show our superiority over the USSR, we added those words to the pledge of allegiance in about 1954, I think it was. Joanne is quite correct it was and still is completely unconstitutional. Illustrated again with the image for this article of the Bill of Rights being displayed as religious art. That though was the trend of the times, when many our buildings in Washington DC were erected. Which for years has continued to create the misunderstanding that this nation is a religious rather than a secular nation, open to all forms of beliefs.

Who is "Richard Stands" only children are so very open and honest. Thanks for adding that Joanne, big grins.

JL A (281)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 12:23 pm
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. (0)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 12:31 pm
I never thought I would be living in a country that has reached such a moral low. It's the lying that I can't stand.

JL A (281)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 12:42 pm
We've been lied to for more than 40 years Allan--and many of those years it was a GOP president and some of the worst lies led to the resignation of a GOP president.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 2:24 pm
I have signed that petition before but i wonder why, knowing it will not make the slightest difference.
Honestly, I am getting more disgusted with the US each day...
Will we see a day when such institutions and organisations like these 300 signatories will also get prosecuted??

JL A (281)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 2:51 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Angelika because you have done so within the last day.

Judith Hand (55)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 2:55 pm
Noted. As an American of 55 years of age, my gut response to the title was how odd, that America was hearing from the international community about something that we were founded on. It then went to my brain which sadly realizes, daily, how many problems we still have in so many areas. I read the statement and my gut response was "touche'!" I'm going with my gut on this one.

TomCat S (128)
Monday June 24, 2013, 1:04 am
For Congressional Republicans human rights begin at conception and end at birth.

JL A (281)
Monday June 24, 2013, 10:15 am
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Jane Williams (165)
Monday June 24, 2013, 1:46 pm

Helen Porter (39)
Monday June 24, 2013, 11:19 pm
I think I may have already signed Stop Watching Us but just to be sure I signed it again.

Sherri G (128)
Tuesday June 25, 2013, 1:08 am
How very sad that we have to tell our Congress to respect human rights. Obviously Congress does not based on Guantanamo, the patriot act, NSA spying on US citizens, etc. Worse yet I don't think President Obama does either based on his support to punish whistle blowers. Thanks JL noted.

JL A (281)
Tuesday June 25, 2013, 7:24 am
You are welcome Sherri.
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