On July 1st 2016, a new domestic secret service with extensive powers and authorities was established. The basis for this is the Polizeiliche Staatsschutzgesetz (PStSG). From the beginning we put up strong resistance against this law and we will continue to do so.
This is why we composed a constitutional complaint ("Drittelbeschwerde") ordered by the Green Party and the Liberal Party, which was filed at the Austrian Constitutional Court (VfGH) at the end of June. It is yet unknown when the court proceedings will take place. We'll keep you posted!
Our main points of criticism
- A new uncontrollable domestic secret service is being established in Austria
- Surveillance without control by judges
- Extremely long periods for storing the collected data
- Surveillance of entire "groupings"
- Surveillance without any punishable offence
- Unlimited internet surveillance
- Introduction of paid police informers
- Lack of evaluation of existing surveillance measures
Our five demands
- Fact-based security policies – The PStSG has to return to square one and must be created after and according to a comprehensive evaluation of the current surveillance situation, of statistics of police investigations, and of a fact-based analysis of the security requirements. The government may violate basic rights only when it can prove that the undertaking is necessary and proportionate.
- Clear separation of police and secret services – The state protection must not be a police authority and have, at the same time, the surveillance powers and authorities of a secret service. Unambiguous responsibilities are vital.
- No repression against the civil societies, journalists, and whistle blowers – The tasks of the state protection must not include minor offences. The definition of "verfassungsgefährdender Angriff" (attack endangering the constitution) must be clearly delineated and only contain severe crimes. There must not be an infringement on basic rights like the right to demonstrate and the freedom of the press.
- Strong legal protection, no "pre-crime" – For every measure of surveillance there must be specific suspicions. The proportionality of the measure must be documented in written form and approved by a judge. The control by the parliament must be extended and the transparency of the activities of the relevant authorities must be increased.
- No paid police informers – Experiences in Austria and in many other countries show clearly that having police informers often leads to difficulties in ensuing trials. The use of paid informers has also led to scandals. Austria should learn from these experiences instead of repeating past mistakes. The use of unpaid informers has to be clearly regulated and must be compatible with the court proceedings.