The Internationale Liga für Menschenrechte sues the secret services and the Federal Republic of Germany over mass surveillance

03/02/2014
Press release

Berlin, Paris - 3 February 2014 - The International Liga für Menschenrechte (International League for Human Rights), with the support of FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), and along with the data protection association digitalcourage e.V. (Bielefeld), the Chaos Computer Club e. V. (Hamburg), the League’s vice president and attorney Dr. Rolf Gössner, the spokeswomen of the Chaos Computer Club e. V. (Hamburg), Dr. Constanze Kurz, and the digitalcourage board members Rena Tangens und padeluun filed a complaint today before the Federal Public Prosecutor concerning mass surveillance programmes.

The illegitimate mass surveillance and digital espionage conducted by the United States’s National Security Agency (NSA) and other secret services which have allegedly violated civil rights and criminal law must be investigated.

This may include unlawful intelligence operations, illegitimate intrusion in the personal and private sphere, data spy outs as well as the obstruction of justice and punishment.

The complaint is filed against the US-American, British, and German secret services (ie, The Federal Intelligence Service, the German domestic security agency “Verfassungsschutz”, The Military Counterintelligence Service), notably against those who were responsible for and actively involved in the secret service activities and unlawful data transmission, and therefore directly or indirectly contributed to creating a global surveillance system.

It is filed also against the Federal Chancellor and the Minister for Internal Affairs who are alleged to have been complicit with and aided the Federal German secret services, and with the entire Federal Government and all responsible predecessors in office forthe last two decades.

The League’s Vice-President Dr. Rolf Goessner, questioned around his motivation to file the complaint, declared: “This step is an attempt to cut into the prevalent sense of impotence towards masssurveillance, unveil criminal liabilities and hold those responsible in the Federal Government and the secret services to account for their close cooperation and intense data exchange with the NSA and other secret services, as recently revealed by Edward Snowden. This includes share of infrastructures and devices by the NSA and the Federal German secret services".

Disclosing secret service practices and structures which are exempt from democratic oversight is crucial for citizens, civil society organisations, the state and society itself, as well as for safeguarding basic civil rights.

“The constitutionally granted right to communicate without being surveilled is an indispensable prerequisite for an open, democratic society - yet it is being violated under the current circumstances by mass surveillance. Despite the fact that the protection of its citizens, along with preventing the erosion of constitutional democracy and fundamental human rights, is among the Federal Government’s core duties, this has failed to protect citizens and enterprises from this unprecedented attack” said Goessner.

President of the League Prof. Dr. Fanny-Michaela Reisin calls to collectively resist and support the complaint: “We urgently need to clarify the responsibilities for these serious violations under criminal and constitutional law. Political interests should not enter this equation. For this reason the League decided to join its French and Belgian counterparts, which have launched similar actions and filed complaints over the past months in their respective countries, in denouncing large scale surveillance by the NSA and others.”

These lawsuits, which are multiplying all over Europe, are part of a broad action initiated and coordinated by the FIDH, which the International League for Human Rights is a member of. They aim at sheding light on the scale of this unprecedented attack against individual rights and hold those responsible to account, while raising concerns about the long-standing abuse of counter-terrorism measures as a cover to unlawful practices.

“Our initiative should encourage civil society to promptly and strongly react to current attacks against civil rights and the law. We call on all citizens and civil society organisations to join the complaint and to support it publicly“ added Reisin.

“After having filed complaints in France and Belgium, FIDH is now strongly supporting this initiative in Germany. We believe that this inacceptable intrusion into the private life of millions of citizens must be thoroughly investigated” declared Patrick Baudouin, FIDH’s Litigation Action Group Coordinator and FIDH Honorary President.

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