Swedish Bar Association warns against "draconian" surveillance

5:13 min

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven is considering extending the intelligence service's surveillance powers, a move that Anne Ramberg, secretary-general of the Swedish Bar Association, says would put citizens’ liberty at risk.

Covert data interception, extended camera surveillance and controls on biometric passport data are some of the measures that Prime Minister Stefan Löfven presented as proposed ways of combatting terrorism in the wake of the Paris attack.

Anne Ramberg, secretary-general of the Swedish Bar Association, is critical of those proposals, telling Radio Sweden "it's extremely important that we do not panic".

"We shouldn't behave the way the world behaved after 9/11. We already have mass surveillance and there aren't enough safeguards as it is," says Ramberg, acknowledging that "is difficult to strike a balance between upholding the rule of law and human rights, on the one hand, and defending the country from terrorism, on the other".

Löfven suggested the fact that technology develops rapidly and terrorists find new ways of communicating warrants extending the intelligence services' capabilities of tracking criminals. However, Ramberg says legislators will never be able to keep up to speed with technological developments.

The type of interception that is being discussed now involves using so-called Trojan horses and that, says Ramberg, is different in kind and more draconian. "It is like bugging," she says, adding: “Coercive measures are necessary, but in order to use them and to permit them in legislation you have to be absolutely certain there is a need for them, that they will be efficient and proportionate.”

So could the kind of surveillance now being suggested help prevent violent terrorist attacks like the one in Paris?

"That might be the case but, we have seen many terrorist attacks like the one in Paris and they happen despite the mass surveillance that exists all around the world," says Ramberg.

Asked what is at stake if surveillance is rolled out further, Ramberg said: "We are putting the open, democratic society at risk because privacy is not just an individual right. It's in the interest of the whole of society that individuals can use their democratic freedoms...”

“It’s only when we have a society where people feel free, that we can really enjoy our rights and have a democratic society built on the rule of law. If you go too far, then you achieve a society where people are afraid, not only of the terrorists but also of the state and of the institutions that are supposed to defend you from terrorism. That is a very dangerous development."