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Sweden and UK’s surveillance programs on trial at the European Court of Human Rights

This week, the highest body of the European Court of Human Rights heard arguments against the mass surveillance programs of two countries, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The legal proceedings in the two cases started years before, in 2008 and 2013, respectively, with the litigation eventually reaching the court’s highest body, the ECHR Grand Chamber, who heard them one after the other, in succession on Wednesday, July 10. Both cases made similar arguments, asserting that the signals intelligence programs in the two respective countries set up mass surveillance operations to intercept all citizens’ communications, kept the programs secret, and ran them — and continue to run them — without proper oversight and checks and balances in place. Read more

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REVEALED: How UK counter-terror unit uses rap, graffiti to target Middle Eastern youth #Media

A secretive British government counter-terrorism propaganda unit is working on campaigns aimed at changing the behaviour and attitudes of young people in the Middle East and North Africa considered to be at risk of becoming violent extremists, Middle East Eye can reveal. The campaigns, which have so far run in Tunisia, Morocco and Lebanon, use rap music, graffiti, filmmaking, social media and sports to bolster their credibility and “deliver messages about alternative pathways to vulnerable youth”. The work is led by the British Council, a public body that promotes the UK abroad and is part-funded by the British Foreign Office, through a programme called “Strengthening Resilience in MENA” which has been funded by the European Union since 2016. Read more

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UN special rapporteur expresses serious concerns on UK’s counter-terrorism bill

The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin has expressed serious concerns about the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill that is currently being considered by parliament. In her submission Professor Ni Aoláin states that the bill risks criminalising a broad range of legitimate behaviour, including reporting by journalists. She highlights the importance of safeguarding freedom of expression and finds that parts of the bill fail to meet the UK’s obligations under international human rights law. Read more