On the first anniversary of Edward Snowden’s leaks Amnesty International demands protection for whistleblowers and privacy

There is an urgent need for international protection for whistleblowers and major reform to protect the right to privacy, said Amnesty International on the first anniversary of Edward Snowden’s revelations on the extent of government spy networks in various countries across the world.

“The persecution Edward Snowden has faced for his vital contribution to our knowledge of governmental abuses of power is despicable,” said Michael Bochenek, senior director for international law and policy at Amnesty International. 

“We are deeply troubled by Edward Snowden’s treatment and are also well aware that there are thousands of other whistleblowers who are also being persecuted for simply bringing to light information that is in the public interest. It is imperative that all states do all they can to allow people to report on human rights abuses safely.” 

Whistleblowing laws vary from country to country, but the US’s system is particularly unforgiving. Following the leaks, the US government charged Edward Snowden under the Espionage Act, denying him the possibility of a public interest whistleblowing defence. If he were prosecuted in the United States and found guilty, he could face imprisonment of up to 10 years per charge. 

Alongside the threat of imprisonment should he return home, Edward Snowden is also facing extraordinary problems securing asylum in other countries. For the past year the US government has leant on other governments worldwide to prevent Edward Snowden from entering their countries or even crossing their airspace. As a result, he is living in temporary asylum in Russia with no long-term security. 

“The price Edward Snowden has paid for his actions is appallingly high. Since the leaks surfaced he has fled his home in the United States, and has effectively been living in exile in Russia while the US blocks him at every turn.” 

Edward Snowden’s revelations revealed the pervasive reach of the NSA surveillance programme, which Amnesty International believes is a flagrant breach of international law. 

“Edward Snowden’s revelations shocked the world and proved, beyond a doubt, that governments have systematically violated their citizens’ rights to privacy. Now Amnesty International, along with other organisations, is taking up the fight for privacy and are demanding that governments answer for their abuse of power,” said Michael Bochenek.