THE ALLEGED protection of human rights is often used as an excuse not to clamp down on law breaking. We still remember how, several years ago, our deputies had tried to block the use of speed cameras on the ludicrous grounds that taking pictures of drivers was a violation of the right to privacy. It had been claimed at the time that a driver could be pictured with someone he should not have been with and the picture subsequently used to blackmail him.
It was beyond laughable, but the courts accepted a similar argument made in defence of drivers’ whose cars were parked illegally on pavements; traffic wardens, who had photographed the cars to prove the parking offence, were found to have been violating the right to privacy of the offenders that were also liars as they had denied parking on the pavement. In short, respect for human rights is being used to protect law-breakers.
The human rights card has been played by AKEL to justify its opposition to the bill that would allow the authorities to use private electronic communications such as e-mail and SMS as evidence in cases relating to financial crime. The Attorney-general wants the law passed as it would facilitate the investigations into the collapse of the economy and has made no secret of his frustration over the legislature’s delays. He had attended four committee meetings at the House to explain the provisions of the law, but AKEL was still claiming, quite unjustifiably, that the law would be used monitor the activities of citizens.
It is very clear that the party is using the pretext of human rights to protect wrongdoers. Politis claimed AKEL wanted to cover up the funding received by the party from the Vgenopoulos-linked company, Focus Maritime, as police investigators were in possession of e-mails that proved the connection. AKEL has denied having received any money. If the bill is approved the Attorney-General would be able to use e-mails as evidence, not in this case. The fact that AKEL has agreed to back the law on condition that it applied only to future cases and not those under investigation supported the suspicion that its concern for human rights is a sham. It is number one priority is to protect the party and its people and has nothing to do with rights and individual freedoms.
The truth is that honest, law-abiding people have nothing to fear from laws such as this that politicians, for their own reasons, claimed could lead to human rights violations. There are enough controls in place, not to mention social pressure on the authorities to ensure the law would not be abused. Without laws allowing surveillance and violation of rights to privacy, countries would never have been able to offer their citizens protection from terrorist threats.
The bill the House will vote for on Thursday is not even a threat to anyone’s rights as it simply allows investigators to use emails and SMS communications to build a case against suspected law-breakers. It is law-breakers that AKEL is protecting with its disgraceful opposition to the bill.