Edward Snowden: Is it illegal for US to block his asylum claim?
NSA leaker Edward Snowden has made it clear that he believes he is being pursued for political offenses. But the US government considers him a common lawbreaker and not a human rights case.
In Pictures Edward Snowden on the run: villain or hero?
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That’s what the National Security Agency leaker asserts. In a meeting Friday at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, he told representatives of human rights groups that the US has revoked his passport, placed him on no-fly lists, demanded that Hong Kong return him “outside the framework of its laws,” and threatened sanctions against “countries who would stand up for my human rights and the UN asylum system.”
Venezuela, among other Latin American nations, has now offered asylum, but the US and its allies on this issue are continuing to block his ability to travel, Mr. Snowden said.
“This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights,” Snowden said.
Is he right? Your answer to this may hinge on whether you frame his actions as political offenses or criminal behavior.
The American Civil Liberties Union has a good piece outlining the legal issues here. It notes that under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has a right to seek asylum from persecution.
“This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations,” the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states.
In addition, the American Convention on Human Rights provides for the right to seek asylum in foreign territory if “he is being pursued for political offenses or related common crimes.”
Snowden makes it clear that he believes he is being pursued for political offenses, and that what he has done is true to the spirit and letter of international law. In his speech to human rights representatives Friday, he quoted a principle that he said was declared at the Nuremberg trials of German war criminal suspects in 1945: “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”