European Advisory Group Backs Tshwane Principles

3 October 2013

A body of European parliamentarians that bills itself as “the democratic conscience of Greater Europe” has endorsed “reasonable limits” on the use of “national security” as a ground for secrecy.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Oct. 2 passed a Resolution on National Security and Access to Information.

A person “who discloses wrongdoings in the public interest (whistle-blower) should be protected from any type of retaliation, provided he or she acted in good faith and followed applicable procedures,” according to the resolution.

Finally, the assembly of 318 parliamentarians urged the Council of Europe governments to align their laws with the Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information (the Tshwane Principles). (See previous report.)

The body also recommended that governments sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents.

The resolution’s author, Arcadio Díaz Tejera, of Spain, commenting on the leaks of U.S. surveillance by Edward Snowden, was quoted as saying: “One lesson learnt from this massive leak is in fact that the publication even of relatively sensitive information is nowhere near as damaging as had previously been assumed. I therefore consider the extreme severity with which the US authorities are treating Mr Manning, the young soldier who seems to be the ‘source’ of these leaks, as most inappropriate.” The Open Society Justice Initiative, which spearheaded the creation of the Tshwane Principles, welcomed the PACE endorsement.

There were  two negative votes: from Roger Gale, UK, member of the European Democratic Group (EDG), and Robert Schlegel, Russia, also EDG.

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