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'In EU Face': UK Mass Surveillance Behind Theresa May's Calls to Quit ECHR

© REUTERS / Kerry DaviesBritain's Home Secretary, Theresa May, addresses the Conservative Spring Forum in central London, Britain April 9, 2016.
Britain's Home Secretary, Theresa May, addresses the Conservative Spring Forum in central London, Britain April 9, 2016. - Sputnik International
Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May has spoken out in support of the "In" campaign which wants to see the UK remain part of the EU, but with the same breath talked of her contempt for the European Convention of Human Rights.

"It wasn't the European Union that delayed for years the extradition of Abu Hamza, almost stopped the deportation of Abu Qatada, and tried to tell Parliament that — however we voted — we could not deprive prisoners of the vote. It was the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)," Theresa May said.

The European Convention of Human Right and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which oversees compliance with it are nothing to do with the European Union; but despite this, Theresa May used her "In" EU campaign speech to reiterate her calls for coming out of the ECHR.

"It isn't the EU we should leave but the ECHR and the jurisdiction of its court [ECtHR]."

Among the articles included in the ECHR are the right to liberty, the right to family life and the right to privacy. However, the UK government's surveillance powers and the potential erosion of personal privacy is already under legal scrutiny by the ECtHR.

Snoopers' Charter

The Investigatory Powers Bill, which would allow sweeping new surveillance powers for the security services and police forces. Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights has called on the British government to justify how GCHQ's practices and oversight comply with the right to privacy under "Article eight" — the right to privacy — of the European Convention.

"Theresa May will be defending mass surveillance at the ECtHR over the next weeks, as they examine what we learnt about huge programs gathering everyone's data," Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group said.

"The government built GCHQ's programs without discussion in parliament. The ECtHR has provided a way for impartial judges to examine what our government has done, even when they preferred to bypass democratic procedure."

Parliament Should Prioritize Privacy

Open Rights Group, Big Brother Watch, English PEN and Internet campaigner Constanze Kurz are asking the European Court of Human Rights to rule on whether UK surveillance and oversight comply with the right to privacy under "Article eight" of the European Convention.

The groups claim that GCHQ has infringed the privacy of British and European citizens.

"This legal challenge is an essential part of getting to the bottom of why the public and Parliament have not been properly informed about the scale of surveillance and why our privacy has been subverted on an industrial scale," Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch said.

According to campaign group Privacy Not Prism:

"It is believed to be the first international law challenge based on the Snowden disclosures."

The British government must respond to the European Court of Human Rights over claims GCHQ has infringed the privacy of British and European citizens by May 2 2016.

"This is the same court that Theresa May believes she should not have to answer to," Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group said, not long after the Home Secretary reiterated her desire to withdraw from the ECHR whilst espousing her support for the European Union.

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