In Britain, a lawsuit was filed for refusal to investigate “Russia’s interference in the elections”.
British parliamentarians filed a lawsuit against the government, accusing it of inaction in the matter of Russian “interference” in electoral processes in Britain. It was London’s refusal to investigate after the Intelligence Committee’s report in July, which said the Cabinet had turned a blind eye to the ‘Russian threat. The British government would face legal problems because of its refusal to launch an investigation into possible Russian interference in the elections.
Six parliamentarians filed a lawsuit on October 29 claiming that the inaction of UK authorities violated legal obligations undertaken by London under the European convention on human rights that guaranteed rights of citizens for free and fair elections.
In July, the Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security published a report that reported that Britain was “clearly a target of Russian disinformation campaigns and operations of political influence” and called for an investigation into Russia’s “interference” with the referendum on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union in 2016. The document also criticized the British government for failing to act in the face of this threat and encouraging the flow of Russian money to the UK.
The government in its statement to the report said that the report does not provide evidence of Moscow’s interference in the electoral process, and, accordingly, a new assessment “is not needed”.
The document did not indeed contain any evidence of Russian influence in the British elections. The report’s main message was that the country’s leadership was turning a blind eye to the threats posed by Moscow. The document criticized the British security services for choosing a “very cautious approach” to the problem, while the government “directly avoided” investigations into Russia’s “interference” in the country’s domestic life.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, however, refuted those suspicions and noted that the results of the referendum were solely a reflection of the British people’s opinion. “People in this country voted for Brexit, not because of Russian pressure, but because they wanted to regain control,” Johnson said.
Downing Street’s position outraged a number of deputies. Member of the House of Lords Paul Strasburger, deputies from the Labor Party Ben Bradshaw and Chris Bryant, a member of the Green Party Caroline Lucas, a member of the House of Commons from the Scottish National Party Alin Smith and Baroness Patience Jane Whitcroft filed a lawsuit against the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Financial Times reported.
They intend to find out why the government “fails to act on the issue of Russian intervention. In addition, deputies are demanding improvements to current legislation to prevent Russia from attempting to interfere in future elections. The trial was also supported by former British national security adviser Peter Ricketts and former British Ambassador to Russia Anthony Brenton.
“Attempts to undermine Western democracies have not ceased, and we need to learn from what has happened in the past so that we can ensure that our electoral processes are sufficiently sustainable and can withstand potential future interference,” Carolyn Lucas quoted the publication as saying.
“For some reason, the prime minister seems to want us to remain in the dark about Russia’s repeated attacks on our democracy. The enormous amount of misinformation that Moscow is spreading in a clever and cunning way undermines our sovereign freedom to choose our own leaders and determine our own vector of development. We need to ask the prime minister why he doesn’t want us to know the truth,” the BBC quoted Paul Strasbourger as saying. The suit claims that the government’s decision not to conduct a public investigation is unfounded and contrary to public interests. As grounds for the suit, the parliamentarians stated that such an investigation would provide an opportunity to hear the testimony of witnesses and request documents from the intelligence.
According to the plaintiffs, the investigation will also reveal the extent of Russian interference in British internal processes, and it is not only a referendum on the country’s withdrawal from the EU but also the referendum on Scotland’s independence in 2014.
Moscow has repeatedly refuted any such allegations. “Russia has never interfered in the electoral processes in any country of the world: neither in the United States, nor in Britain, nor in other countries. We don’t do it ourselves and we don’t tolerate other countries trying to interfere in our political affairs,” Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier.
Earlier Ken McCallum, director-general of the British counterintelligence agency MI5, told journalists that the agency had already investigated the possibility of Russia’s interference in the elections but had found nothing “significant.
However, he acknowledged “the need to ask questions” as to whether British intelligence had paid enough attention to the Russian threat since the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, when the security agencies focused on counter-terrorism operations.
A UK government spokesman said that while he would not comment on ongoing trials, protecting democracy was an “absolute priority” for London.
“Great Britain has robust systems in place to protect our elections and institutions from interference,” a spokesman for the government added, saying Downing Street is preparing a new law to help security services prevent outside interference.
Following the report, the government spokesman said the UK would launch its own register of foreign agents like those operating in the U.S. or Australia, where individuals representing foreign powers must register with the Justice Department and report periodically on their activities. Those who do not comply await deportation or imprisonment.
The Intelligence and Security Committee declined to comment on this issue.
Either way, a lawsuit will put pressure on the government to initiate an independent investigation into Russia’s interference with the elections.
A judge can verify the legality of a decision not to investigate, but a verdict cannot determine whether the government is acting right or wrong.