Delegation of the European Union to the
UN and other international organisations in Geneva

HRC 41 - EU Intervention: Clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of Association

Geneva, 26/06/2019 - 11:18, UNIQUE ID: 190626_2
Statements on behalf of the EU

41st Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council Geneva, 24 June – 12 July 2019 EU Intervention: Clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of Association

Mr. Kaye,

We thank you for your report on targeted surveillance and its impact on journalists, activists, opposition figures, and others in exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Human rights law imposes duties on States to safeguard the freedom of opinion and expression and in this regard, the EU remains fully committed to the UN Guiding principles on Business and Human Rights, which imply that States have a duty to protect which includes taking appropriate steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress human rights abuses by third parties. 

As highlighted in the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline, the EU is committed to ensure a structured and consistent approach to export controls of certain sensitive information and information and communication technology items. We are also committed to promote action at international level to prevent sale of surveillance or censorship technology to authoritarian regimes, including by presenting proposals in the context of key multilateral export control regimes such as the Wassenaar Arrangement.

We believe that it is important to ensure that the legislation and procedures of states regarding the surveillance of communications and the interception and collection of personal data are based on the rule of law, subject to independent, effective domestic oversight mechanisms and uphold obligations under international human rights law, including the principles of proportionality and necessity.

Mr. Kaye, you recommend to the Council the creation of a legal and policy framework to regulate the surveillance industry and tighter regulation of surveillance exports. Could you elaborate on the mechanism you envisage to control the purchase and use of surveillance technologies and to safeguard respect for freedom of expression, privacy and related human rights?

Turning to the Special Rapporteur on peaceful assembly and association:

Mr. Voule,

The European Union would like to thank you for your report focusing on the opportunities and challenges facing the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the digital age.

We share your view that the digital age has opened new space for the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and it has also brought a range of new challenges to these fundamental rights. States should ensure that these rights are respected, protected and implemented in accordance with international law, whether exercised in person, through the use of technologies of today, or future technologies. This finding should also invite states, businesses and civil society to work together to ensure that these innovations respect and reinforce human rights.

In this context, we are concerned about legal restrictions which risk shrinking civil society space and related limitations to the exercise of the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly around the world. The EU firmly opposes any unjustified restrictions of these rights reminding that the same human rights that people have offline must be protected online. We are committed to continuing our support for civil society, human rights defenders, peaceful protest organizers, persons belonging to minorities and others seeking to exercise these rights. 

Mr, Voule, how can the EU and international community work together to respect FoAA in the digital age and how EU and international community can support the civil society in their activities related to these rights in this area ?

Thank you.

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