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After sustained pressure from civil society organisations, and under the leadership of the governments of Brazil and Germany, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) established a new Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, on 26 March 2015.

With over 67 governments from all of the world’s regions co-sponsoring the resolution, the establishment of the Special Rapporteur marks a clear consensus that privacy is a pressing global issue that will finally be accorded the international recognition and protection it deserves.

This mandate is an enormous step towards placing privacy at the forefront of human rights protection, which is where APC believes it should be, particularly in light of the large-scale rights violations resulting from government surveillance of online communications; violations which are enabled by new technologies and current internet business models. It puts in place a mechanism for ongoing, systematic and authoritative monitoring, reporting and guidance on the scope and content of the right to privacy.

We believe that the new Special Rapporteur, who should be appointed in June 2015, will fill a significant gap. He or she will play a critical role in identifying and clarifying principles, standards and best practices, developing common understandings of the right to privacy, monitoring and reporting on its implementation, and providing guidance to states and non-state actors, particularly business, to strengthen the protection of individuals’ right to privacy.

We are pleased that the HRC took a broad approach with the mandate, which encompasses the full scope of the right to privacy as it is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). We encourage the new Special Rapporteur to address the specific challenges and violations of privacy and harassment that at-risk users and marginalised groups face.

Human rights defenders and women human rights defenders, political opposition, religious and ethnic minorities, LGBTQI groups, sexual rights advocates, and independent journalists in particular, are subject to surveillance and regularly have their privacy rights violated. We invite the new Special Rapporteur to take into account the specific threats that individuals and communities face as a result of surveillance and the effective remedies for individuals whose rights to privacy have been violated.

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