Human Rights Watch and Others v. United Kingdom (UK Mass Surveillance)
A Privacy International campaign led to spin-off litigation testing the scope of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal's prerogative to conduct investigations
Case name: Human Rights Watch Inc & Ors v Secretary of State for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office & Ors
Court: Investigatory Powers Tribunal
Application nos.: IPT/15/165/CH, IPT/15/166 CH, IPT/15/167/CH, IPT/15/168/CH, IPT/15/169/CH, IPT/15/172/CH, IPT/15/173/CH, IPT/15/174/CH, IPT/15/175/CH, IPT/15/176/CH
Following a campaign by Privacy International encouraging organisations and individuals to request the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) to conduct investigations as to whether they had been subjected to unlawful surveillance measures, 663 applications for investigation were made to the IPT. Six of those claims, including one made by Human Rights Watch, were 'test claims' that Privacy International worked with pro bono counsel to file.
On 16 May 2016, the IPT ruled that the six applications supported by Privacy International could properly be directed for individual investigations, subject to further information that the claimants were "potentially at risk" of unlawful surveillance.
In a novel statement of jurisprudence, the IPT addressed, and for the first time restricted, the scope for extra-territorial human rights claims. The IPT read Article 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) as limiting the application of the ECHR to the territory of contracting member states. Accordingly, the UK owed no obligations under Article 8 to claimants based abroad; not even if communications between claimants based abroad had passed by cable or airwave through the UK's territory.