Demanding a remedy for everyone: who can challenge UK's secret surveillance?
Seven applicants sought review from the European Court of Human Rights of the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal’s refusal to hear their challenges to the UK intelligence services mass intercpetion practices. Their legal action was a result of PI’s campaign and support
* Photo by Chris Slupski on Unsplash
Court: European Court of Human Rights
Applications nos 64230/16, 64368/16, 64741/16, 65463/16, 65487/16, 64371/16, and 64407/16
Seven applicants, including journalists and human rights activists, submitted complaints before the European Court of Human Rights (European Court) against the UK. They challenged the Investigatory Powers Tribunal’s (IPT) decision on a number of grounds. The applicants who were UK residents challenged the IPT’s failure to make any determination in their favour in relation to the interception of their personal communications. The applicants who were non-UK residents also challenged the IPT’s finding that it does not have jurisdiction to investigate their complaints. They brought this challenge on the basis that the IPT’s decision failed to provide them with an effective remedy to breaches of their right to privacy. The applications were lodged on 4 November 2016.
The applicants submitted their complaints following Privacy International’s campaign. In 2015, Privacy International started a campaign encouraging individuals and organisations to make applications to the IPT to investigate whether they had been subjected to unlawful surveillance measures by the UK’s intelligence agencies. 663 investigation requests were made to the IPT. After the IPT refused to investigate their claims, several applicants took their challenge to the European Court. PI, along with pro bono counsel, assisted six of those applicants.
The European Court decided not to examine the cases until it reached a decision on a closely related case where PI was also an applicant. In 2021, the European Court issued its judgment in the related case. It found that the UK had violated people’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression.
Following that decision, the European Court reopened the seven cases in September 2021. It split them into two groups: the first group concerned UK residents, including Human Rights Watch and others. The second group concerned non-UK residents. You can find more information in the corresponding pages.