French Surveillance Bill: LQDN Files an Amicus Brief to the Constitutional Court

Paris, 25 June, 2015 — This morning, La Quadrature du Net, French Data Network and the FDN Federation filed an amicus brief to the French Constitutional Court against the Surveillance Act that was just adopted yesterday by the Parliament. The three organizations, who have opposed the French Surveillance Bill since its adoption by the government on March 19th, will now continue their fight against this dangerous law in court.

Demonstration of 13 April 2015 against the Surveillance bill

After a stormy legislative process which began on March 19th, the government's and the intelligence services have managed to legalize surveillance practices which are intrusive, often indiscriminating, still barely supervised, and which will massively affect the fundamental liberties of virtually all citizens.

As numerous opponents have emphasized during the last three months, this law:

  • widens the range of motives for which extra-judicial surveillance can be practiced, potentially permitting the surveillance of entire segments of society, union activities, militancy, but also economic and scientific life and so forth;
  • give a legislative thumb up to the intelligence services' illegal practices, including through techniques of mass surveillance;
  • A lack of real, independent ex ante and ex post control by the future CNCTR [National Commission for the Control of Intelligence Techniques], and largely illusory recourse by citizens;

On June 23rh and 24th, both chambers of Parliament adopted the final version of the Intelligence bill. Now, citizen groups have filed an amicus curiae to the Constitutional Council, which will review the constitutionality of the Intelligence Act before it comes into force, and in particular its conformity with fundamental rights.

These past weeks, a small team of pro bono lawyers and analysts on behalf of La Quadrature du Net, the French Data Network and the FDN worked to product this legal and technical analysis of the law. Not all its measure are mentioned in the final document, as the brief mainly deals with measures related to the surveillance of Internet communications. But this collective work results in a document of more than 120 pages building on French, European and international human rights law. This brief was filed this morning to the Constitutional Council through the procedure known as porte étroite1.

"We had little time to complete this work, but in the end, it forced us to sharpen our criticism of the law and even to discover new legal arguments demonstrating its incompatibility with the rule of law. Given the near total deference of lawmakers towards the executive, it is now up to judges to reason the reason of State by censoring the legalization of mass surveillance. We hope that the Constitutional Council will take our analysis into account, and display more open-mindedness to citizen participation than Jean-Jacques Urvoas, the rapporteur of the bill, who talked down opponents in civil society by calling them "amateurs" during parliamentary debates. We also hope that our work will be useful to some parliamentarians opposed to the law who are currently preparing the text of their appeal to the Constitutional Council. And if the Council remains deaf to our arguments, we're ready to go all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights ... " said Felix Tréguer, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net.

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  • 1. The "narrow gate", because there is no formal procedure to ensure that the Council will take these arguments into account.