Decision of the EU Ombudswoman on EU transfers of surveillance capabilities to third countries

fdecomite via Wikicommons

30 November 2022. The Ombudswoman found that the European Commission failed to take necessary measures to ensure the protection of human rights in the transfers of technology with potential surveillance capacity supported by its multi-billion Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUFTA).

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), together with a coalition of human rights groups, called in 2021 on the European Ombudswoman, the European Union (EU)’s oversight body, to investigate evidence that the EU is supporting surveillance in non-EU countries in breach of its own rules. The complaint outlined how EU bodies and agencies are cooperating with governments around the world to increase their surveillance powers. The complainants contended that, before agreeing to support projects with potential surveillance implications, such as biometric databases or mobile phone monitoring technologies, the Commission should have carried out prior risk and impact assessments to ensure that the projects do not result in violations of human rights (such as the right to privacy).

The Ombudswoman identified shortcomings in that the Commission was not able to demonstrate that the measures in place ensured a coherent and structured approach to assessing the human rights impacts of EUTFA projects. She additionnaly recommended that there is a prior human rights impact assessment for future projects.

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