UNITED STATES CIVIL RIGHTS GROUP the American Civil Liberties Union has expressed concern that the persecution of whistleblower Edward Snowden could break the international asylum system.
In a letter posted on its website, the ACLU said that the prospect of sanctions raised by the US government are in danger of ruining a system that offers solace to the outspoken.
ACLU Human Rights Programme director Jamil Dakwar and ACLU senior staff attorney Chandra Bhatnagar posted their concerns in reaction to reports that the US government is pressuring countries that might have offered Snowden safe harbour.
"In the case of Mr Snowden, the United States has interfered with his right to seek asylum in two significant ways. First, the US revoked Mr. Snowden's passport. While this action does not render Mr. Snowden 'stateless' (because he is still a U.S. citizen), it does make it extremely difficult for him to travel or seek asylum, especially in countries that require asylees to be present in their territory at the time of the request," they wrote.
"Second, while the United States is within its rights to seek Mr Snowden's extradition to face charges in the United States, diplomatic and law enforcement efforts to extradite him must be consistent with international law. It appears that US efforts have prevented Mr Snowden from receiving fair and impartial consideration of his application for asylum in many of the countries to which he reportedly applied."
So heavyhanded has the response to Snowden been, noted the ACLU, that a plane carrying Bolivian president Evo Morales was effectively forced to land and then searched for the whistleblower.
"US actions (including whatever role the United States played in the incident involving President Morales' plane) have arguably strengthened Mr Snowden's claims for asylum based on political persecution," they added.
"In addition to infringing on Mr Snowden's right to asylum, US actions also create the risk of providing cover for other countries to crack down on whistleblowers and deny asylum to individuals who have exposed illegal activity or human rights violations. That's a very dangerous precedent to set." µ