Three UN Special Rapporteurs criticize German foreign intelligence reform bill

Warning that the new law would violate international human rights standards if enacted, three Special Rapporteurs on human rights voiced criticism of the reform bill for German foreign intelligence agency BND.

UN Special Rapporteurs David Kaye (Freedom of Opinion and Expression), Michel Forst (Situation of Human Rights Defenders) and Mónica Pinto (Independence of Judges and Lawyers) expressed “concern that the draft law would pose a threat to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression” in a letter to Germany’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva. The issues raised by the three specialists include the creation of “overbroad conditions for the collection and processing of data” and “insufficient safeguards for the rights of foreign journalists and lawyers.”

The UN Special Rapporteurs’ reaction echoes that of a large coalition consisting of Reporters Without Borders and 16 other media and human rights organizations. In early August, the coalition launched a petition to help secure changes in the BND bill. So far, the petition has been signed by more than 5 000 people and continues to be open for signatures.

“The fact that three UN Special Rapporteurs voice such concerns indicates just how strongly they believe that the proposed BND law would infringe on human rights”, said Matthias Spielkamp, board member of Reporters Without Borders Germany. “This statement by the United Nations should be a wake-up call for Germany’s governing coalition to thoroughly revise the BND reform bill. Foreign journalists and other professions subject to confidentiality must be guaranteed the same protections as their German colleagues.“

The Rapporteurs emphasized the fact that the draft law offers weaker protections against BND surveillance for non-German citizens than for Germans, stressing that the right of freedom of expression - protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - applied regardless of nationality and frontiers. They added that limits to the right to freedom of expression must themselves be non-discriminatory.

The German government presented a draft law for a BND reform in late June. The draft will be discussed at a parliamentary experts’ hearing in late September before being put to its second and third reading, presumably in October.
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Updated on 05.09.2016