One of the most significant national security cases in recent memory advanced to its final stage last week when the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights received the parties’ final submissions in the joined appeals of Big Brother Watch and Others v The United Kingdom and Bureau of Investigative Journalists and Alice Ross v The United Kingdom.
Can Yeginsu and Anthony Jones are once again representing the leading United States online rights group, the Center for Democracy and Technology as they did in both applications before the First Section of the European Court of Human Rights.
The appeals concern the lawfulness of aspects of the UK’s bulk data and communications surveillance regime, the details of which came to light following the Edward Snowden leaks. As revealed in those leaks, the UK security agencies, in partnership with those of its international allies including the US routinely tap, store, and sift through vast amounts of telecommunications and Internet data.
The decisions of the first instance chambers held that the then-current UK legal regime – the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (‘RIPA’) – was deficient such that the UK was in breach of the European Convention, but that bulk surveillance activities are not per se incompatible with human rights. The RIPA regime has now been replaced, but the practice of bulk surveillance remains contentious and the Grand Chamber has considered it sufficiently serious to justify rare further consideration.
Submissions are now closed, with a final hearing set for July 2019 in Strasbourg.