Grounding of Bolivian presidential jet and treatment of Edward Snowden shames European Union

Civil society statement

Over 50 international lawyers, human rights, civil rights and civil society groups and networks say the actions of certain EU member states in response to Snowden’s revelations contradict the EU’s stated commitment to democracy, human rights and international law.

The refusal of entry into their airspace by certain European states for the Bolivian presidential jet on the basis of suspicions that Edward Snowden was on board was an astonishing manoeuvre that flies in the face of the EU’s commitment to democracy, human rights and international law.

The potential damage that this action does to both the reputation of the European Union and respect for international law within and beyond its borders cannot be overstated. The forcing down and searching the Bolivian President Evo Morales’ jet was a clear breach of fundamental principles of diplomatic immunity and inviolability. Such principles are the bedrock of good international relations and customary international law.

The blocking of routes to asylum coupled with the failed attempt to apprehend Mr. Snowden suggests that some EU states are prepared to disregard the European Conventions on Human Rights and expeditiously transfer him to the USA to face the same fate as Bradley Manning and other whistleblowers – that is solitary confinement, the prospect of an unfair trial and a charge that carries the death penalty.

States such as Spain and Portugal were among the many EU governments that permitted hundreds of CIA “extraordinary rendition” flights through their airspace between 2001 and 2006, facilitating repeated acts of torture, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention by the USA. Their failure to prosecute those responsible and compensate the victims of rendition is now compounded by the EU’s apparent readiness to engage in the practice once more.

The European Union should investigate the forcing down and searching the Bolivian President’s jet and act swiftly to safeguard the fundamental rights of its people by putting an end to the unwarranted mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden.

The ruthless persecution of whistleblowers is a grave threat to investigative journalism. It will undermine openness and transparency and further erode public trust in government.  The issues now at stake – the protection of whistleblowers, the regulation of surveillance powers and the ability of journalists’ to protect the confidentiality of their sources – are at the very heart of what it means to live in a democracy.

Many European countries have a proud history of providing refuge to people facing prosecutions of a political nature. If they are to avoid the same international reputation for injustice that increasingly plagues their Transatlantic partner they should cease and desist in their efforts to apprehend Mr. Snowden, recognise his service to European democracy and guarantee him safe haven or passage.


Acção Acadêmica para o Desenvolvimento das Comunidades Rurais (Mozambique)
Access to Information Programme (Bulgaria)
Action from Ireland
Africando (Spain)
Alianza Social Continental – Hemispheric Social Alliance
Asociacon de Cubanos Residentes en Portugal
Asociación Americana de Juristas
ATTAC Argentina
ATTAC Austria
ATTAC Finland
ATTAC Hellas
ATTAC Mallorca
Arab Lawyers Association (UK)
AdvokatPRO (Barrister bureau, Russia)
Alliance for Global Justice
Alternative Intervention of Athens Lawyers
Bay Area Latin America Solidarity Coalition
Begegnungszentrum fuer aktive Gewaltlosigkeit (Center for Encounter and active Non-Violence)
Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation
Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (UK)
Ceartas, Irish Lawyers for Human Rights
Center for Research and Documentation Chile-Latin America (Germany)
El Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.” (CSMM)
Comité du Forum Social Lémanique, Genève
Confederación Intersindical Galega
Convergencia de Movimientos de los Pueblos de las Américas
Corporate Europe Observatory
Ecologistas en Acción (Spain)
Eskubideak (Basque lawyers association)
Europe solidaire sans frontiers France
European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH)
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights
FIAN International
Focus on the Global South
German Association of Democratic Lawyers (VDJ)
Global Social Justice
Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network
Greek Helsinki Monitor
Grupo ‘Solidair met Guatemala’ de Bélgica
Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
Humanist Association of Hong Kong
Indian Association of Lawyers
Institute for Policy Studies
International Association of Democratic Lawyers
International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms, (IALANA), German section
Italian Association of Democratic Lawyers
Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie (Germany)
Latinamerikagrupperna (Sweden)
Latin America Solidarity Centre
Marin Interfaith Task Force on the Americas
National Lawyers Guild
Nicaragua Center for community Action
Observatório para a defensa dos direitos e liberdades (EsCULcA)
Otros Mundos AC/Amigos de la Tierra (México)
Partito della Rifondazione Comunista – Sinistra Europea
People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (South Korea)
La Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD)
Progressive Lawyers of Turkey (CHD)
Red Europea de Comités Oscar Romero
La Red Nacional Genero y Economia (Mexico)
Soldepaz Pachakuti
Transnational Institute
Transnational Migrant Platform – Europe
Unión Universal Desarrollo Solidario
VD AMOK (Netherlands)

For more information

UN rights chief urges protection for individuals revealing human rights violations:

European Parliament Resolution on the US National Security Agency surveillance programme, surveillance bodies in various Member States and their impact on EU citizens’ privacy, 4 July 2013:

Amnesty International, USA must not hunt down whistleblower Edward Snowden:

Human Rights Watch, US: Statement on Protection of Whistleblowers in Security Sector:

European Parliament Resolution on alleged transportation and illegal detention of prisoners in European countries by the CIA, 2 Aug. 2012:

Open Society Justice Initiative, Report on “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition”:

European Court of Human Rights, judgment in El-Masri v. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:

The Global Rendition System database: