Belgium: FIDH and LDH take PRISM scandal to court

Press release
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FIDH and LDH in Belguim lodged today a complaint before the First Intance Court in Brussels ’against unknown person’ based on revelations by Edward Snowden on NSA surveillance in the context of the PRISM (Planning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronisation and Management) programme. Our organisations lodged a complaint for unauthorised acces to an IT system, violating the secrecy of private communications and telecommunications, collection, use and maintenance of personal data gathered by such means, and violating the secrecy of electronic correspondence.

Surveillance of national operators, such as Belgacom, and the nature of our organisations’ activities lead us to believe that we might have been spied on said Belgium LDH President Alexis Deswaef.

The complaint lodged today in Belgium follows a similar action launched by FIDH and its member organisation the French League for Human Rights (LDH) in July 2013. This led to the opening of a preliminary investigation, currently ongoing.

Snowden’s most recent revelations support the allegations made in the complaints and unveiled a mass surveillance system. Despite the system’s still undefined scale, it has been ascertained that the NSA has used IT programmes such as PRISM to obtain information on millions of individuals in the US and other countries, including in Europe.

This inacceptable intrusion into the private life of millions of individuals constitutes an unprecedented attack on individual freedoms and a significant threat to the rule of law. The Belgian judiciary cannot stay idle. They must investigate. declared Patrick Baudoin, FIDH’s Legal Action Group’s Coordinator and Honorary President.

"The U.S. PRISM program raises serious questions not only about violations of privacy, but more broadly about the use and abuse of a "terrorism" framework, which we’ve seen used as a cover to improperly target certain groups and individuals for the last decade," said Katherine Gallagher Vice President of FIDH and Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. "It is hoped that criminal investigations in Europe will help put an end to practices that the U.S. is unwilling to reign in."

The legal actions launched in France and Belgium are a first step in a quest for justice that will lead FIDH and its member organisations to bring suit in other European countries. Light ought to be shed on PRISM’s scale and on its consequences on citizens’ private lives.

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