Minister of Justice Ögmundur Jónasson has referred the operations of the Surveillance Detection Unit of the US Embassy in Reykjavík to the State’s Attorney so it can be investigated whether its monitoring of the embassy’s neighborhood is in violation of Icelandic laws.
Jónasson announced his decision at a press conference yesterday while presenting the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police’s report of the Surveillance Detection Unit operations, which was based on the answers from the US authority to the commissioner’s questions, Morgunbladid reports.
The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police determined that the answers were not satisfactory, especially regarding whether Icelandic laws were violated with the surveillance practice.
“If it is the case that Icelandic citizens feel that they have been violated or that Icelandic laws on privacy have been violated, I consider it my duty as minister of justice and human rights to investigate such matters,” Jónasson said.
The minister added that the State’s Attorney will make an independent decision on whether and or how he will proceed with the investigation.
The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police determined in the report that according to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relation, the US Embassy’s Surveillance Detection Unit did not violate Icelandic laws as long as its operations were limited to the embassy area.
In their answer to the commissioner’s request, US authorities explained that such units were founded after deadly attacks on their embassies in Eastern Africa in 1998. However, it is not mentioned when the Surveillance Detection Unit in Iceland was founded.
The unit monitored suspicious behavior near the embassy and registered the license plate numbers of suspicious vehicles, which were then stored in a database.
Photographs of suspicious individuals were sometimes sent to the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police.
The commissioner said such deliveries from the US Embassy were never responded to; if its employees believe certain individuals might threaten the embassy’s security, they should call the police’s emergency hotline.
The commissioner also asked whether Icelandic citizens had been on the embassy’s Surveillance Detection Unit and if so, what their identities are. That request was not responded to.
Questions on the size of the area monitored around the embassy, whether the unit operated outside that area and whether similar surveillance took place outside the homes of the embassy’s employees were left unanswered.
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