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UK’s mass surveillance regime violated human rights law, finds ECHR (techcrunch.com)
342 points by sahin-boydas on Sept 13, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments

Interestingly the EU recently passed a copyright bill only the other day that will force many ISP's to install low-level content surveillance of their user-base due to article 13 making all intermidiatary's liable for user actions.


Is this interesting? The ECHR and European parliament are not the same organisation or people?

Well it is interesting that a new law that most people disagree with could be struck down by the courts.

Is this the end of the case or is there some future sentencing? I find it hard to believe they weren't aware the programs violated human rights law, and I'm not sure what we're hoping a court confirming it's bad will accomplish.

Any penalties against the treaty signatories are done when the the judgment is made final, either by three months elapsing or by the Grand Chamber declining a request for referral or appeal, or ultimately by the Grand Chamber publishing a judgment (and that is by definition final). This judgment was published by the (lower) Chamber of the Court, so we likely have a while to go yet.

The important point is the judgment that the UK's domestic law is in violation of the UK's treaty obligations, but as is common with most treaties there's little in way of active enforcement (notably the ECtHR doesn't have power to directly overrule or strike down domestic law).

Exactly: The countries signing the convention agreed to its binding force but, except for fines, the ECtHR doesn't have direct to order countries. That actually foes for most judiciaries: Courts generally can only order governments to pay fines but these go back into the state budget. Few countries allow officials to be held in contempt of courts. Both, domestic courts and the ECtHR, rely on the respect for the rule of law and, at least for the ECtHR, that has mostly worked out well. Exceptions are Belarussia and Russia

It gets much worse than that in specific sections of law. It is very common, for example that for minors and mental health patients decisions work (trying to translate a french term) "without presupposition".

(this is about Belgium)

This means 2 things:

1) decisions taken by the executive power are not influenced by the court decision (famously one to keep a minor in solitary confinement for ~2 months and at one point forgetting to feed him for nearly 2 weeks, he had to drink from the toilet). The state got convicted ... and he got sent back to the same institution, never to be heard from again ("that would violate his privacy", sadly not joking). Legally, they could have prevented him from attending the trial in the first place. For "some reason" he never filed the open-and-shut case for monetary compensation that he was sure to win ... Never heard from again.

But don't worry, that decision was made "in the interest of the child" (says the organization that kept him in isolation for 2 months and didn't feed him for 2 weeks. Needless to say, the actual spokesperson at this point asked his name be kept out of the paper for that statement. The paper obliged)

2) if a defendant goes to a higher court, this does not halt execution of the decision. For example, a child services employee* takes the decision to take kids away from their environment and "place" them in an institution (meaning a child prison, but don't call it that) (note: this is mostly done WITHOUT those children having committed a crime, 75% of decisions are made because a state official has decided the parents aren't fit to be parents, though it's true that it's also done when they do)

* I wish I could say they used psychologists to make these decisions. That WAS true, not anymore. It is not anymore. At this point it's partly high schoolers (high school in Belgium has a social sciences/psychology year, an education with an incredibly bad reputation), and you're lucky to find one psychologist in the entire organization (technically there's 1 per province, but they "never look at individual cases").

Now at this point the parents aren't informed, nor is the child. Then the police turns up and takes the kid away, often in violent encounters. At some point this comes to a real judge, and let's say the youth judge decides the government was wrong to do this. What happens now ?

Nothing. The child is not returned. The current in-progress process is executed (and if that process is placement in foster care, that means the child is never returned, or at least not before adulthood). It is a crime to attempt to make that happen anyway.

3) Let's say child was not taken in the first place, but the youth judge decides to place the child. The parents or the child decide to appeal the decision.

What happens next ? The child is taken away by the police and placed. It is a crime to attempt to stop this.

Similar things can happen to mental patients, even if the court decides they were wrongfully diagnosed as mental patients in the first place.

And of course, yes, politicians have been convicted of using this to imprison political opponents.

Judging by the wikipedia page, this is in fact pretty common across the world:


And then I'm not even mentioning the real scandals. For example, youth services couldn't "place" some children. They weren't with their parents. After a while they find them: the parents had sent them, with the grandparents, to Croatia.

Youth services runs into action. Kidnapping (not really, of course) ! They send agents there, and arrest the grandparents.

It took 2 weeks before someone asked "and the children ?". Well, they left the children behind in Croatia, and they are still in a mental institution there, in Zagreb ... 2 years old and 7 years old.

Needless to say, the person to ask this question was the mother of the children, who had to do this from behind bars (despite that she would not be convicted). It only worked because her lawyer went to the papers.

The grandparents were convicted of kidnapping. The parents were not convicted before a court for any wrongdoing (how disgusting is it that they even tried to convict them after doing that to their children ?). The state, needless to say, objected to the decision to not convict the parents, and appealed the decision, without getting a conviction, but they did imprison the parents for that period. Over 2 years behind bars for those parents, without conviction, with their children in a mental institution in Zagreb.

Needless to say, nobody in the police or youth services was even internally disciplined.

Equally needless to say, the power of these services has since been expanded and oversight reduced, as well as their budgets to hire capable people.

Incredibly offensive fact: due to the fact that youth services take so many children away from their parents, but don't actually have places to put them, they've started putting them in boarding schools. There's a tiny problem with that: those close in the weekends and during school holidays, and mostly demand those children leave. No alternatives are given to those children, so they're homeless at that point, have to sleep in the street. This has grown to be the number one complaint from these children.

If they get help at their parents or family they are punished by youth services ...

Nitpick: It's Belarus, not Belarussia.

Aren't they a part of FVEY tho

I have a suspicion that at least part of the drive for Brexit comes from the determination of the British security services to preserve their last little island of unaccountable Empire. There have been conflicts with ECHR over torture, "extraordinary rendition", the treatment of Republicans in Northern Ireland, and (repeatedly) over mass surveillance.

One former "M", Richard Dearlove, is an overt Brexit campaigner.

(Edit: yes I know leaving the EU does not automatically exit ECHR, but it's a prerequisite, and the same people are generally campaigning against ECJ and ECHR as well)

ECHR is not a part of the European Union, so Brexit won't take us out of it.

However, I believe that the EU requires members be signatories of the ECHR, so Brexit would make leaving it much easier.

It's well documented that Theresa May wants to leave the ECHR; somewhat alarming since both Russia and Azerbaijan, countries with comparatively poor records on human rights, are signatories.

In fact, as far as I know the only European states that are not part of ECHR and Council of Europe are the Vatican (since they're a theocracy...), Kosovo since it has limited international recognition, Kazakhstan and Belarus over human rights violations.

No European state that'd be eligible has chosen to voluntarily stay outside. Azerbaijan and Russia are the closest to being in trouble of the current members (Russias voting rights were suspended over the annexation of Crimea; Azerbaijan is implicated in corruption to step criticism over Aliyev's rule).

The "European states outside the CoE club" is not exactly one to strive for membership of, to the extent even a lot of Tory MPs in favour of Brexit are opposed to leave the ECHR; David Davis in fact threatened to rebel over it at one point.

The matter is a little more complex than this, given the EU itself is a signatory to ECHR, so indirectly via the ECJ and so forth decisions via the ECHR can affect any EU member.

Historically the ECHR has been a hugely respected Court, the shame alone of an adverse decision against a State has often been more than enough to prompt action. Most EU states have domestic legislation forcing their courts to interpret domestic statute in a manner compatible with the ECHR. Some go even further. Scotland's parliament, for example, is entirely unable to legislate in a manner incompatible with the ECHR.

In today's world, with its crumbling institutions, who knows if the 'shame' effect still means what it once did.

It's surprising to find that the ECHR does not consider same-sex marriage a human right.

>> Convention for the Protection of Human Rights

>> Article 14 – Prohibition of discrimination:

>> The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status. [0]

Granted, its not about marriage, but according to the ECHR, its a human right to live free of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

[0]: https://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventio...

I don't see anything about sexual orientation, just sex which would be about being male/female (possibly transexual depending on the interpretation?).

[Edit] There is this, which seems to leave it to the nations:

>>Article 12 – Right to marry

>> Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.

Discriminating against sexual orientation isn't possible without discriminating against sex. A woman is allowed to marry a man, but a man is not.

Both man and women have the right to enter marriage, which is defined in the document as the union between Man and Women (Much clearer in the french version).

People are starting to realize that this definition is incompatible with rules against gender-based discrimination.

That's only if you believe that discrimination (selection bias) is the same as discrimination (categorizing). There's no apparent failure of logic until you start confusing them (eg "starting to realize"). If some people are starting to believe that the definitions are synonymous, they are wrong and will have to deal with the issues that naturally occur when you confuse ideals with reality. Generally some population group suffers for another population group to be supplicated in an arbitrary way.

This isn't about the kind of discrimination being allowed. This is about which groups we apply protections to. Do you also think I'm mistaken that a law defining marriage as the union between two people of the same race is incompatible with a law forbidding racial discrimination in marriage rights?

I am a person. And I am not starting to, at all.

I mean that there's a building legal recognition that laws against sex discrimination are incompatible with laws that discriminate against sexual orientation or gender identification. I did not mean that every single person on earth is aware of being at the start of a personal change.

How does Russia remain a signatory?

In most countries the same-sex marriage comes trough legislation, not from court decisions.

ECHR has ruled that relationship of two same-sex partners falls under the notion of "family life". It means equality of treatment and non-discrimination in regard to the protection of family life.

But no same-sex marriage right. I's my understanding that this is difference between individual rights and state obligations.

The ECHR was founded in 1953, at that time homosexuality was illegal pretty much everywhere. And if you look at UDHR (from 1948), There is article 16 that is kind of against same-sex marriage. But it's not very clearly stated; I don't think they even imagined that same-sex marriage could one day be a thing.

[OT] Kazakhstan is Central Asia.

I'm sure this is one of the many true reasons for Brexit, all of them hidden from the mass of people voting for it.

Part of Kazakhstan is within Europe.[1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europe#Contemporary_definition

I think it is that we can't do anything about a vast number of serious criminals without cessation from any appearance of such laws. I know that in isolated cases the law is bluntly ignored and treated with contempt.

That's a Daily Mail argument. The UK was a founder member of the Council of Europe in 1949, and the Euro Commission of HR looked heavily to the civil liberties traditions of the UK and others.

It is only the current crop of hard-Brexit Tories that have suddenly taken so against it. The previous 70 years, long before we even joined the EU or abolished hanging, managed to deal with criminals just fine without proposing leaving CoE

I doubt anyone who was aware of both expected leaving the EU would have any connection with the CoE and ECHR membership

If you can't stop criminals without breaking the law yourself get another job. And if you have to trample human rights to do it maybe you should be right next to those criminals, getting the same treatment.

I'm sure you would quickly have a change of heart if you were subjected to the same violations.

I continue to be harassed often daily often violently since t spent a six year sentence in​prison for breach of a order that never existed, procured or forged by a social worker to remove me from being able to prevent him defrauding my elderly mother. I have been almost laughed at by judges. I was actually told to forget my right to trial by a senior judge.

>>somewhat alarming since both Russia and Azerbaijan, countries with comparatively poor records on human rights, are signatories.

So you admit it's ineffective then?

The ECHR is completely separate from the EU so no matter what way the actual Brexit goes, they will still be a member of the ECHR. Whether they might want to leave that as well is another matter.

All people hear are "European" and "Court" and assume its part of the EU and Brexit means the end of that so we can get back to torturing and executing like the Good old Days...

I would say the European Court of Justice is also outside the EU as it also regulates the EEA, but Brexit has meant leaving that too for about two years now.

I know it seems weird and cynical to say a government might not understand what it is and isn’t leaving, but my total lack of faith in the UK government at this point means I’ve chosen to leave the country rather than risk it.

No, the CJEU does not regulate the EEA. That would be the EFTA Court.

I don't think there's any reason to make that assumption at all. Aside from the ECHR !== EU thing than a dozen other people have already pointed out – and the fact that the ECHR is substantially a UK invention – I just don't get why you think this would make a difference.

ECHR has nothing to do with the EU. And Britain created the ECHR.

They both have "European" in the name, so obviously the same thing. Now if you'll excuse me I'm reading my Daily Mail.

> There have been conflicts with ECHR over torture ... the treatment of Republicans in Northern Ireland

ECHR found in favour of the UK recently: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/11/echr-judges-...

However, note that the ECHR basically redefined torture in Selmouni v France, stating that the standards for torture can increase over time as we advance. The convention is a "living instrument which must be interpreted in the light of present-day condition"

That drive includes pushback at limiting the transparency over tax havens/evasion and media ownership, and lower working quality standards.

>I have a suspicion that at least part of the drive for Brexit comes from the determination of the British security services to preserve their last little island of unaccountable Empire

That's a poor strategy then, since it's likely Scotland will have a second independence referendum and there is much strong support for independence now that it's seen as a way to stay in the European union.

Sadly there's no constitutional obligation for them to hold or respect that, or even preserve the Scottish parliament; I fear the situation may end up like Catalonia. Similar signals are in place for Northern Ireland.

Well you are technically correct, and despite the meme being that technically correct is the best type of correct, I don’t think that argument will hold up very well against a crowd of angry Glaswegians.


> The EU is becoming increasingly insignificant in terms of global GDP share and will continue to do so.

I mean, it’s the second largest entity in terms of nominal GDP after the US, and second largest in terms of PPP GDP after China. As a share of global GDP, sure, it’s diminishing; after all, essentially all developed countries are. It is still very significant, however. Even if you assume that world GDP per capita is ever spread evenly, it’d be nearly 10% (currently, it’s 16% PPP).

I don’t remember countries leaving the EU left and right. Or that 100% of the Brits voted for Brexit. I do remember your government basically admitting that Brexit will hurt the UK no matter how it is executed.

Ah, an advocate for murdering the political opponents of the state.

(Not trolling, that's literally what happened)

The EU is not a failed project, it has tons of benefits for tons of people.


Maybe they're getting voted down because the ECHR hasn't got anything to do with the EU.

Everybody’s pointless political comments get downvoted. When I make a dad joke about Trump, it always ends up with -2 karma. (Still I come back eventually because something about that orange real estate baron just shuts off people’s better instincts.)

Constructive comments about the EU’s failings seem to often hover near the top. It’s all in how you present your negative opinion.

Anjem Choudary is currently in the news. With the likes of him and his supporters I'm not sure I expect much else. I'd prefer it wasn't done, but even with that we still have bombs and vehicle rampages. What are the alternatives?

The key difference is between "surveil known idiots like Choudary" versus "surveil everyone then try to find terrorism by keyword match". The latter is not only unlawful and unjust but produces a huge number of false positives.

Not sure why that comment's been voted down. Ultimately it's a question - voting down a question... Anyway, I'm not convinced surveilling the high profile people is going to alert you to the people who are off the radar, ie lone wolves. There might be an association between some, but not all. Again, (I think some people struggled to read this in the previous comment), I'm not pro-mass-surveillance, I'm just not convinced that what should be a better situation would be a better situation, ie maybe an unfortunately necessary evil.

Just be more vigilant.

Sadiq Khan has said he believes the threat of terror attacks are “part and parcel of living in a big city” and encouraged Londoners to be vigilant to combat dangers.

That is not what he said, but certain right wing groups enjoy peddling this lie so much that the London subreddit has an automoderator config that corrects people [1] whenever it surfaces.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/london/comments/8e3vlz/the_heatwave...

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