34th session of the Human Rights Council
Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy
7 March 2017
Delivered by Tor Hodenfield

Thanks you Mr. President,

CIVICUS welcomes the report of Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy. We applaud the Special Rapporteur and his team for undertaking a frank and much needed assessment of the characteristics of the international legal framework surrounding governmental surveillance. It is clear from these reflections that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur is more essential than ever.

The Special Rapporteur is unequivocal that “since the day the UN Resolution on Privacy was passed . . . the status of the right to privacy in the surveillance area has not improved.” We remain deeply concerned that unwarranted and willful restrictions on the right to privacy continue unabated at the national level despite increased safeguards at the Council and other multilateral bodies.

In particular, we express alarm over the continued practice by several states to use privacy laws to suppress the work and activities of journalists and civil society groups. Communication technologies remain a critical tool for human rights defenders to augment their voices and share timely information on pressing human rights issues. We urge all States to acknowledge the critical role that use of such technologies plays in supporting democratic participation and the realization of all human rights.

To address these concerns we urge states to heed the recommendations put forward by the Special Rapporteur to establish or strengthen independent, effective and impartial judicial, administrative and/or parliamentary oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability of Government surveillance.

While we welcome the cooperation of several states including Germany, France and South Korea, through their willingness to facilitate an official visit, we lament that such engagement are exceptions rather than the norm. 

To help shepherd more robust and universal promotion and protection of the right to privacy, we urge the Council to continue taking steps to support the development of  a legal instrument to regulate surveillance and protect digital privacy.

We thank you.



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