(Washington, DC) – Jesselyn Radack, an attorney at the Government Accountability Project (GAP) in Washington, DC who represents whistleblower Edward Snowden, was interrogated and harassed by a Heathrow Border Force agent as she entered the United Kingdom over the weekend. Her questioners made it clear that she was subjected to this intrusive and hostile treatment because of her legal relationship to Mr. Snowden.
Because both the U.K. and the U.S. recognize the right to counsel, GAP, a 36-year old non-governmental organization that operates as a law firm, deplored the incident. “When a government subjects the attorney for a political defendant such as Edward Snowden to intimidation and harassment, then in practice, that government infringes the right to counsel,” said GAP Executive Director Bea Edwards. “The government of the U.K., together with the U.S. government – to the extent that it cooperated – explicitly violated Edward Snowden’s right to counsel by harassing Ms. Radack, his attorney.”
Not only have the two governments broken their own laws in questioning Ms. Radack about her work for Mr. Snowden, they are also in violation of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which both have signed. The Declaration clearly implies the right to counsel when it states that everyone shall be regarded equally before the law and shall enjoy the right to a fair and public trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal.
The United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, reaffirms the right to counsel in international law. Nonetheless, the principle was ignored by the U.K. Border Force, apparently at the request of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security three days ago.
GAP has protected nearly 5,000 whistleblowers in the U.S. and abroad over the course of its history and notes that as the public becomes more dependent on these individuals of conscience for information about government illegality, fraud, and abuse of authority, retaliation against them and those who seek to protect them is becoming more intense. The treatment of Ms. Radack at Heathrow is evidence of this.
GAP champions government and corporate accountability and transparency by defending whistleblowers and advancing occupational free speech. Since its founding in 1977, GAP has helped in the effective exercise of conscience of over 5,000 whistleblowers.
Contact: Douglas Kim, External Relations Officer