UK government admits spying on Amnesty International

2 Jul 2015

The UK government has admitted GCHQ had been spying on human rights group Amnesty International.

The UK government’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal has confirmed that human rights organisation Amnesty International was subjected to unlawful surveillance by GCHQ.

The Tribunal informed Amnesty International its 22 June ruling had mistakenly identified one of two NGOs, which it found had been subjected to unlawful surveillance by the UK government.

The tribunal confirmed it was actually Amnesty International Ltd, and not the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), that was spied on in addition to the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa.

The communication made no mention of when or why Amnesty International was spied on or what was done with the information obtained.

The NGOs were among 10 organisations that launched a legal challenge against suspected unlawful mass surveillance of their work by the UK’s spy agencies.

“After 18 months of litigation and all the denials and subterfuge that entailed, we now have confirmation that we were in fact subjected to UK government mass surveillance. It’s outrageous that what has been often presented as being the domain of despotic rulers has been occurring on British soil, by the British government,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary-general.

“How can we be expected to carry out our crucial work around the world if human rights defenders and victims of abuses can now credibly believe their confidential correspondence with us is likely to end up in the hands of governments?

“The revelation that the UK government has been spying on Amnesty International highlights the gross inadequacies in the UK’s surveillance legislation. If they hadn’t stored our communications for longer than they were allowed to by internal guidelines, we would never even have known. What’s worse, this would have been considered perfectly lawful.”

World eye image via Shutterstock


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years