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UK wields counterterror measures against protest and civil society

Recent legislation is cause for concern in the UK (1st quartile), which is a leader in the Europe-wide trend of adopting overbroad counterterror legislation that threatens expression. The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act poses a threat to freedom of conscience, thought, and religion, as well as freedom of expression online.[1]

In December, counterterror legislation was used to crush peaceful demonstrations: the ‘Stansted 15’, protesters trying to prevent the deportation of illegal asylum seekers, were tried under counterterror legislation.[2]

The European Court of Human Rights also ruled that the UK government’s mass interception and surveillance programme is a violation of the rights to privacy and freedom of expression.[3]

The UK police started to use facial-recognition technologies at protests – a violation of privacy and anonymity.[4] The authorities were also found to be illegally carrying out surveillance against CSO Privacy International.[5]



[1] ARTICLE 19, UK: Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill Could Criminalise Expression and Opinions, 9 October 2019, available at

[2] ARTICLE 19, UK: Terror-Related Legislation Should Not be Used to Sanction Protests, 12 December 2018, available at

[3] Privacy International, UK Mass Interception Law Violates Human Rights – But the Fight Against Mass Surveillance Continues, 13 September 2018, available at

[4] Liberty, Why You Should Get Your Face Painted If You’re Marching Against Trump, 11 July 2018, available at

[5] Privacy International, Press Release: UK Intelligence Agency Admits Unlawfully Spying on Privacy International, 25 September 2018, available at