UN throws its weight behind Snowden

2013-07-14 14:00

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Human rights head highlights need to shield people who uncover abuses.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay gave guarded support for fugitive former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden on Friday, saying his case highlight the need to protect people who uncovered abuses.

In her first public comments on the matter, Pillay also called on all nations to respect the right for people to seek asylum.

Snowden, who is wanted by the US for leaking details of its secret surveillance programmes, said on Friday that he would seek temporary asylum in Russia.

Washington has pressed nations not to take him in or help him travel.

“Snowden’s case has shown the need to protect persons disclosing information on matters that have implications for human rights, as well as the importance of ensuring respect for the right to privacy,” Pillay said in a statement.

“National legal systems must ensure that there are adequate avenues for individuals disclosing violations of human rights to express their concern without fear of reprisals,” she added.

Pillay said undue surveillance could amount to an infringement of human rights.

“While concerns about national security and criminal activity may justify the exceptional and narrowly-tailored use of surveillance programmes, surveillance without adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy actually risks impacting negatively on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” she said.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no one may be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy, family, home or correspondence, and the law must protect everyone against such interference, she said.

Pillay cited testimony by a former UN expert on human rights in counterterrorism, saying reliable information about human rights violations by an intelligence agency is most likely to come from within the agency. And whistleblowers in such cases should be protected from legal reprisals and disciplinary action.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama raised concerns directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday over Moscow’s handling of Snowden.

But there was no sign of a breakthrough on Washington’s demand that Russia expel him.

Obama and Putin spoke by phone in a discussion that White House spokesperson Jay Carney said earlier would largely be about Snowden, who is wanted in the US for disclosing secret surveillance programmes.

Carney had accused Russia of providing Snowden with a “propaganda platform” to air his complaints about the US.

A White House statement about the Obama-Putin call offered no indication that Putin was prepared to send Snowden back to the US.

“The two leaders noted the importance of US-Russian bilateral relations and discussed a range of security and bilateral issues, including the status of Snowden and cooperation on counter-terrorism in the lead-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics,” the statement said.

The Sochi Olympics are in 2014. – Reuters

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