The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on Thursday voted former government contractor Edward Snowden should be granted asylum in Europe on the grounds that he is a “defender of human rights.”
The vote does not mean Snowden will actually gain asylum in Europe. The member countries will need to decide if they want to take on the MEPs resolution or not. However the vote symbolizes the support Snowden has abroad — even in Europe where the U.S. partners with countries on surveillance.
The resolution passed on a 324 to 271 vote. It calls on EU member states to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender.”
Snowden currently resides in Russia, and he recently said in an interview he would be willing to return to the United States, even if that meant going to jail. However he said he would only be willing to go to jail for the right reasons. Currently he faces three charges under the Espionage Act, a World War I-era surveillance law. Snowden has been critical of the law in past interviews.
In addition to calling for asylum for Snowden the MEPs issued a press release warning of the continued dangers mass surveillance poses to its citizens’ human rights. Tensions between the EU and U.S. have been boiling since Snowden himself released a trove of classified documents that outlined the scope of the American surveillance state.
“Too little has been done to safeguard citizens’ fundamental rights following revelations of electronic mass surveillance,” the MEPs wrote in the press release.
The MEPs release comes as the EU Court of Justice invalidated the safe harbor agreement for data transfers to the United States. Parliament also is calling the European Commission to step up protections on EU citizens’ data entering the U.S.