By Michael Bochenek, Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International
The U.S. authorities’ relentless campaign to hunt down and block whistleblower Edward Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum is a gross violation of his human rights. It is his unassailable right, enshrined in international law, to claim asylum and this should not be impeded.
The U.S. attempts to pressure governments to block Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum are all the more deplorable when you consider the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower could be at risk of ill-treatment if extradited to the U.S.
No country can return a person to another country where there is a serious risk of ill-treatment. We know that others who have been prosecuted for similar acts have been held in conditions that not only Amnesty International, but UN officials considered cruel inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of international law.
Senior U.S. officials have already condemned Snowden without a trial, labeling him as both guilty and a traitor, raising serious questions as to whether he would receive a fair trial. Likewise, the U.S. authorities move to charge Snowden under the Espionage Act could leave him with no provision to launch a public interest whistleblowing defense under U.S. law.
It appears Snowden is being charged by the U.S. government primarily for revealing its – and other governments’ – unlawful actions that violate human rights. No one should be charged under any law for disclosing information of human rights violations. Such disclosures are protected under the rights to information and freedom of expression.
Besides filing charges against Snowden, the U.S. authorities have revoked his passport – which interferes with his rights to freedom of movement and to seek asylum elsewhere.
Snowden is a whistleblower. He has disclosed issues of enormous public interest in the U.S. and around the world. And yet, instead of addressing or even owning up to these actions, the U.S. government is more intent on going after Edward Snowden.
Any forced transfer to the USA would put Snowden at risk of human rights violations and must be challenged.