IRIS info - débats / communiqués

Justice, yes, but within the limits of the law and democratic rights


IRIS Press Release - September 23rd, 2001
(Traduction de David Sharp pour IRIS - Original en version française)

While the criminal attacks carried out in the United States on September 11, 2001 are cause for genuine and legitimate concern, not to say emotion, they can under no circumstances be used to justify the attitude of the US administration, which rather than using legal means to seek out the criminals and bring them to justice is engaging in military action against peoples and states. This threat of war is already going hand-in-hand with very serious attacks on civil rights and individual freedoms, aimed first and foremost, but not solely, at the use of the Internet.

The pressures being brought to bear by the United States, which carries considerable weight in bilateral and international negotiations, are being felt all over the world. A very large number of countries, including the least democratic ones, are beginning to realize what a great opportunity this gives them to challenge and restrict rights that so many people and organizations have taken so many years to conquer.

Following on from the regrettably notorious viewpoint which holds that "whoever has nothing on their conscience has nothing to hide", we are now hearing, like a terrible echo, statements to the effect that "Either you're with us, or you're with the terrorists". No defender of human rights and freedoms can accept such an irresponsible ultimatum.

The French non-profit group IRIS (Imaginons un Réseau Internet Solidaire), whose brief is to defend basic freedoms on the Internet as well as universal rights of access to the network, refuses to let itself be boxed in by such a diktat.

In the analysis we are publishing concurrently with this press release (see below), IRIS denounces the pretexts currently being invoked to restrict rights and freedoms on the Internet, and calls on citizens and their legitimate representatives, as well as on governments, to mobilize against all measures which restrict the exercize of democratic rights and fundamental freedoms on the Internet.

More broadly, IRIS calls on the president of the French Republic, in his capacity as guarantor of our institutions and our democratic and constitutional rights, and on the French government and Parliament, to keep extremely cool heads as regards the decisions being made by the civilian and military authorities of the United States.

Contact IRIS : iris-contact@iris.sgdg.org - Phone/Fax : (+33)144749239


Analysis from IRIS - September 23rd, 2001


Latching on to any excuse to restrict rights and freedoms on the Internet

Using as an excuse the fact that terrorist networks could use, among other techniques, encryption to communicate with one another over the Internet, the United States is adopting exceptional measures. Almost immediately after the attacks, the US Senate granted the FBI full powers to carry out mass intercepts of private communications passing through servers run by Internet service providers, without the slightest need for a court order. The free use of encryption techniques is also being challenged, and strong pressure is being exerted to ensure that the private keys to messages be made available to investigators. Under these circumstances, IRIS expresses its support for its US partners in the international Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC), who are obliged to confront these threats in particularly difficult circumstances.

These problems are also being felt in other countries around the world. They also involve issues related to the protection of personal data, which are already under serious threat from commercial interests. The practice of creating files on people whose only crime is that they don't have the right skin color or ethnic characteristics, or have the wrong type of name, can only get worse with the increasing use of video surveillance and facial recognition techniques. Last but not least, we are seeing in certain circles, including in France and Europe as a whole, an alarming upsurge in a culture of private militias, leading to an incriminatory atmosphere. This brings reminders of a particularly sinister period in world history.

It is blindingly obvious that the billions of items of information that are being collected, completely illegally and with no legitimacy whatsoever, by networks such as ECHELON, among others, are completely useless. Despite that fact, the United States is in the process of making extremely serious violations of democratic rights and basic freedoms - rights which are supposed to be enshrined in its own constitution - into a durable fait accompli.

Beyond the United States, the Council of Europe's draft cybercrime convention has just been approved by delegations from member states, and is due to be adopted officially in November 2001. Despite a number of slight changes, the planned convention still poses serious problems that have been raised by IRIS and its international partners in the Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC).

As the 23rd international conference of data protection and privacy commissioners is being held, and, only a few months away from the start of the ratification process for the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention, IRIS calls on citizens, their elected representatives and all government bodies to mobilize against any and all measures that infringe on the exercize of democratic rights and basic freedoms on the Internet.

In particular, IRIS calls on:

- Data protection and privacy commissioners, who will have the crucial issues on their conference agenda, to adopt a resolution that firmly recalls basic principles regarding the legitimate finality and the requisite proportionality that should govern the collection and storage of personal information, and to denounce any infringements of the corresponding principles;

- The European Parliament to reaffirm unreservedly both the spirit and the letter of the amendments to the draft directive on privacy protection in electronic communication that it adopted in July 2001. In particular, IRIS wishes to stress the importance of amendment 50 to Article 15 of the proposed Directive. This states that "Member states may adopt legislative measures to restrict the scope of the rights and obligations [...] when such restriction constitutes a necessary, appropriate, proportionate and limited in time measure within a democratic society to safeguard national security, defence, public security, the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of criminal offences or of unauthorised use of electronic communication system. [...] These measures must be entirely exceptional, based on a specific law which is comprehensible to the general public and be authorized by the judicial or competent authorities for individual cases. Under the European Convention on Human Rights and pursuant to rulings issued by the Court of Human Rights, all form of wide-scale general or exploratory electronic surveillance is prohibited" (in bold the passages that have been added by the Parliament);

- Governments of Council of Europe member states, and in particular European Union governments, to refrain from ratifying the planned Cybercrime Convention as it currently stands;

- The president of the French Republic and the French government and Parliament to refuse to ratify the planned Convention as long as the changes required to ensure respect for fundamental rights have not been made to it. IRIS calls on the French Parliament to undertake the widest possible consultations to that end, so that a political viewpoint can be brought to bear on an issue that has to date been handled purely as an administrative one;

- The French government and Parliament to commit themselves to ensuring, before any decision, the widest possible public debate on the French Information Society draft law, for the time it takes to consult and study the various analyses being put forward, notably by non-profit groups.

(dernière mise à jour le ) - webmestre@iris.sgdg.org