United Kingdom: Concern for respect of the right to privacy

United Kingdom : The Committee expresses its concern for the UK’s respect of the right to privacy

On the 1st and 2nd of July 2015, the Human Rights Committee reviewed the seventh periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on its implementation of the ICCPR.

During the review, the Committee was particularly concerned with the UK’s respect for privacy, following allegations that two NGOs including Amnesty International had been spied on by the government. Responding to the Committee, the UK delegation affirmed that there exists well established safeguards covering the use of communication data. However, the Committee in its follow-up questions requested further information on the alleged mass surveillance practices of the government.

The Human Rights Committee also stressed the issue of the extraterritorial application of the ICCPR.

The Committee reiterated the position of the Committee under General Comment 31 that a StatHarmondsworth-detention-c-006e party has to respect and ensure the rights laid down in the Covenant to anyone within the power or effective control of that State party, even if he or she is not situated within the territory. The UK delegation responded to the Committee’s concerns about extraterritoriality by maintaining its view that the ICCPR can only have an effect outside of the UK in exceptional circumstances. This did not mean that members of the UK forces are not subject to any law, as they are subject to UK legislation through which human rights and international humanitarian law are applicable. However, at the end of the session, the UK declared its intention that it would reflect upon the issues of extraterritoriality, which was welcomed by the Committee in its concluding remarks.

The Human Rights Committee also raised the following concerns: the ratification of the Optional Protocol and reservations to the Covenant, stop and search powers, the definition of terrorism, the deportation of detainees, prison conditions, the gender equality strategy and abortion rights in Northern Ireland.

The Concluding Observations for which the United Kingdom should provide information on implementation within one year concerned the following areas:

  • Accountability for conflict-related violations in Northern Ireland (8)

  • Accountability for human rights violations committed by British forces abroad (9)

The delegation of the United Kingdom thanked the Committee for the positive spirit in which the discussion had been led and affirmed its commitment to the strong role of the UK in protecting human rights at home and abroad.

For a comprehensive overview of the discussion, see the proceedings on the OHCHR website.

The next periodic report should be submitted by the State party on the 24th July 2020.

Discover the interview with Human Rights Defender Tomaso Falcheta

The Centre interviewed Tomaso Falcheta, Legal Officer at Privacy International, an International NGO that focuses on the right to privacy.


Tomaso Falcheta, Legal Officer at Privacy International

Rules of Procedure of the Human Rights Committee

Rules of Procedure of the Human Rights Committee CCPR/C/3/Rev.10

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CCPR NGO Participation

Documents adopted by the Human Rights Committee (March 2012)

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CCPR NHRI Participation

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