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'Major Victory' as Top Court Says UK Snoopers Charter Violates EU Convention on Human Rights

"This sends a clear message: Similar programs, such as those conducted by the NSA, are incompatible with human rights."

A European human rights court ruled on Thursday that the U.K.'s mass surveillance program was unlawful and violated human rights. (Photo: Kjetil Korslien/Flickr/cc)

Civil rights groups applauded a European court's ruling against the U.K.'s "Snooper's Charter," its mass surveillance program put in place after September 11, 2001, with a 5-2 vote stating that the country's spying practices were a violation of human rights—and called on other governments to end their own surveillance programs.

The European Court of Human Rights also ruled 6-1 that the program was unlawful and did not provide adequate safeguards for privacy and "confidential journalistic material," with the potential to chill free speech for journalists.

Corey Stoughton, advocacy director for the civil rights group Liberty, called the ruling "a major victory for those of us who think there ought to be balance in the government's ability to engage in surveillance."

Liberty joined with the ACLU, Amnesty International, Privacy International, and 13 other organizations to challenge the Snooper's Charter, officially known as the Investigatory Powers Act, after former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the U.K. was obtaining and storing massive amounts of data about communications throughout the country.

Snowden himself was among those who praised the decision.

The ACLU stressed that the ruling sends a clear message that government surveillance is a violation of the human right to privacy in all countries.

"Governments in Europe and the United States alike must take steps to rein in mass spying and adopt long-overdue reforms that truly safeguard our privacy," said ACLU attorney Patrick Toomey.

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