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Shame on France: French Constitutional Council Widely Approves Surveillance Law!

Update (24 July 2015): The French Constitutional Council shows again its disregard for fundamental rights. This morning, after approving almost all dispositions in the Surveillance law, the Constitutional Council builds momentum by rejecting the Question Prioritaire de Constitutionalité1 handed by La Quadrature du Net, FDN and FDN Federation on the 2014-2019 Defence Law as a whole.

The Constitutional Council considered that "the legislator has sufficiently defined connection data, which cannot be related to the content of the communication or to the consulted information". As such, the notion of "information and documents" found in the Surveillance law, as well as in the 2014-2019 Defence Law, stays blurry.

Moreover, the Constitutional Council, which yesterday approved very weak dispositions concerning the protection of professional secrets for lawyers and confidentiality of sources, confirmed this morning that confidentiality of correspondence is only related to the content of said communications, hence sweeping away the notion of secret of sources for journalists.

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Paris, 23 July 2015 — By validating almost all surveillance measures provided in the Surveillance Law adopted on 25 June, the French Constitutional Council legalises mass surveillance and endorses a historical decline in fundamental rights. Algorithmic black boxes have been approved. Only international surveillance has been deemed to be non compliant to the Constitution.

Scope, black boxes, elimination of judicial oversight, no protection of attorney-client privilege and other protected professions, as well as the confidentiality of journalists' sources, absence of transparency with respect to the abuses found: almost all of the provisions of the Surveillance law are declared to be constitutional. Only international surveillance is censored, which paradoxically may strengthen the intelligence services in their practices without any legal basis.

This decision is extremely disappointing. The judges of the Constitutional Council decided to summarily dismiss the numerous arguments raised in the dozen briefs submitted to the Constitutional Council by many players in the defence of fundamental rights. It has been endorsed whereas today, the United Nations Human Rights Committee issued a report roundly condemning this dangerous law.

Bucking the trend across Europe, where a number of jurisdictions have come out strongly against mass surveillance, the French Constitutional Council has disavowed its role as protector of fundamental rights and liberties. By refusing to implement effective control over the intelligence services, it is rubber-stamping a historic step back for privacy and freedom of communication, thus undermining the very foundations of democracy.

This evening the reason of state was brutally imposed over the rule of law.

However, we will continue the fight against this wicked law and all those which will follow wherever we can, especially before the European institutions and jurisdictions. And since France has come to this point, we will help citizens to protect themselves against the surveillance of their own government.

  • 1. The QPC is a procedure in French Law system to control the constitutionality of the laws after they are promulgated.