PACE calls on US to stop persecuting Snowden

Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. (Reuters / Vincent Kessler)
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has adopted a resolution calling on member and observer states to improve the protection of whistleblowers. It also urged the US to let Edward Snowden return without fear of criminal prosecution.

The resolution adopted at the council’s meeting on Tuesday called for its member states and observer states to “create an appropriate normative, judicial and institutional framework for the protection of whistleblowers.”

It urged the states’ governments to “enact whistleblower protection laws also covering employees of national security or intelligence services and of private firms working in this field.”

PACE said that the states must also grant asylum to whistleblowers threatened by retaliation in their home countries “as far as possible under national law” if their “disclosures qualify for protection under the principles advocated by the Assembly.”

The 47-nation body upholding human rights and democracy also set up special “guidelines" for staff members on “reporting wrongdoing.”

“The Assembly stresses the importance of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, upholding the right to privacy, freedom of speech and the protection of whistle-blowers, including in the fields of national security and intelligence.”

In a separate paragraph, the resolution called on the US, a PACE observer state, to allow the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden to “return without fear of criminal prosecution under conditions that would not allow him to raise the public interest defense.” Snowden faces up to 30 years in prison in the US on charges of espionage and theft of government property.

PACE stated that the US 1917 Espionage Act under which he has been charged, does not allow for any form of public interest defense.

READ MORE: Snowden destroyed files before going to Russia – Greenwald debunks Sunday Times report

Snowden spoke to council members on Tuesday via video-link from asylum in Moscow shortly after the resolution was voted on.

“We need to set an international standard of protection from retaliation which can be made greater by national governments, by institutions, by organizations," he said.

He noted that the resolution would help whistleblowers around the world. “If you can’t mount a full and effective defense – make the case that you are revealing information in the public interest – you can’t have a fair trial,” he said.

The resolution backed up the May report made by PACE’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights’ rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt.

The issue of whistleblowers’ safety was raised following the disclosures made by Snowden in 2013 concerning mass surveillance and intrusions of privacy carried out by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. Public concern was also raised following charges brought against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who found asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK. He has been residing there for three years, fearing extradition to the United States where he could face espionage charges.