(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The U.S. government must not prosecute anyone for disclosing information about the government's human rights violations, Amnesty International said after Edward Snowden was charged under the Espionage Act. The rights group also believes that the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower could be at risk of ill-treatment if extradited to the United States.
"No one should be charged under any law for disclosing information of human rights violations by the U.S. government. Such disclosures are protected under the rights to information and freedom of expression," said Widney Brown, Amnesty International’s senior director of International Law and Policy. "It appears he is being charged by the U.S. government primarily for revealing its and other governments' unlawful actions that violate human rights."
The former computer technician – who had also worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – is on the run after exposing large-scale surveillance efforts within the United States and worldwide.
On Saturday, Snowden was charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and communication of classified information with a third party. He was reportedly last seen in Moscow on Monday and according to media reports, plans to seek asylum in Ecuador, where he would not be at risk of extradition to the United States.
U.S. officials – including Secretary of State John Kerry – have said the whistleblower has "betrayed his country."
Besides filing charges against Snowden, the U.S. authorities have revoked his passport, which Amnesty International said interferes with his rights to freedom of movement and to seek asylum elsewhere. The organization also noted that an individual cannot be extradited while they have an asylum claim underway in any country.
"Regardless of where Snowden ends up, he has the right to seek asylum. For such a claim to succeed, he must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution. Even if such a claim failed, no country can return a person to another country where there is a substantial risk of ill-treatment," said Brown. "His forced transfer to the United States would put him at great risk of human rights violations and must be challenged."
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists, and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.