Fighting warrantless wiretapping of lawyer-client communications
The law firm Prakken d’Oliveira is subject of particular interest for both the civil and military intelligence services in the Netherlands, says Michiel Pestman, lawyer at the firm. At a certain moment, his colleagues suspected that their telephone lines were tapped.
After a complaint was filed with the Commission that governs the security services, the Dutch Minister of the Interior admitted that the Dutch intelligence and security agency (AIVD) had been spying on the firm since 2003, listening to calls with clients and third parties. The Ministry considered, however, that there was no need to change the procedure for the secret services to tap telephone lines.
The law firm considered that privileged conversations with clients should not be tapped without prior judicial authorisation; and that there should be a clear and accessible procedure involving a judge, each time the secret services want to conduct surveillance on defence lawyers.
The law firm started a court action against both the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Defence, in order to introduce a prior judicial authorisation for each surveillance procedure involving lawyers. The CCBE intervened as a third party. On 1st July, the Court gave its verdict, ordering the Dutch government to stop within six months all interception of communications between clients and their lawyers under the current regime. The Dutch State was given six months to adjust the policy of its security agencies regarding the surveillance of lawyers and to ensure that an independent body will exercise effective prior control.
The court also ruled that information obtained from surveillance of lawyers may only be released to the public prosecutor if an independent body has examined if, and under what conditions, security agencies were allowed to conduct surveillance. The Court held that the current safeguards were inadequate in view of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. This decision could therefore impact the intelligencegathering policies of other Member States of the Council of Europe. The Ministry of the Interior announced on 14 July that the State would appeal the ruling. The CCBE will submit its written observation in August in view of the hearing scheduled for September.
Read more: [Dutch Intelligence Service (AIVD) taps Prakken d’Oliveira lawyers] [CCBE takes mass surveillance to court] [CCBE wins case against the Dutch state on surveillance of lawyers]
Ellen Timmer – advocaat ondernemingsrecht
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