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Project description

Our research into security sector reform has effectively informed EU's response to mass surveillance by security agencies. It has influenced Council of Europe's programme protecting the human rights of Armenian military while informing reformation of military policy in Armenia.

Primary participants

Ian Leigh Professor of Law

About the research

The research identifies the conflict between good governance and national security interests. It demonstrates a workable consistency between the legitimate concerns while promoting international cooperation of security and intelligence agencies, and human rights of military personnel.

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The research identifies lack of cooperation between security and intelligence agencies as the key reason for failure to recognise or prevent abuse and mass surveillance despite introduction of democratic restraints by western states. It has been extended further in collaboration with a recognised team of global contributors to establish a policy guide recommending directives for strengthening supervision and cooperation. This guide has received considerable attention and scrutiny by sector experts and international bodies.

An additional investigation co-edited by Leigh examines the advances in intelligence oversight against globally highlighted mass surveillance programme of the NSA exposed by Edward Snowden. 

Our research examined existing policies and legislations of 35 participating states to recognise and establish best practice. It was developed into a co-authored OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Handbook aiming to be a resource for bolstering human rights of service personnel. 

Based on research involving questionnaire posed to the Ministries to Defence of the participating states, the handbook is unparalleled in terms of the range and depth of analysis as a legal literature on armed forces. It identifies the democratic struggles in armed forces and consequently suggests an objective 'Citizens in Uniform' approach to address the challenges.

World Wide Impact

Our research has informed practice at the United Nations, Council of Europe, and the OSCE besides inducing national policy and legislative changes. It successfully establishes the ability to induce accountability and human rights protection in the security sector at a national level by effective involvement of international organisations.

Findings based on our work suggesting effective engagement of international bodies with national intelligence oversight bodies were adopted in the European Parliamentary Resolution of 12 March 2014. Our researcher Leigh was involved in a project (2014-2017) launched by EU Agency for Fundamental Rights to assess data protection and privacy in light of mass surveillance across the 28 EU member states.

The CoE adopted a considerable number of recommendations from Leigh's co-authored OSCE Handbook on best pratices for human rights of armed forces personnel.

Ian Leigh's work on Securing Armed Forces Personnel has spread across the world. His reports (co-authored) have been translated into Albanian, Arabic, Bulgarian, Bosnian, Croatian, Dari, Georgian, Indonesian, Macedonian, Pashto, Russian, Serbia,  Spanish, Turkish, and Ukrainian.

Human rights are not merely a matter of high-sounding aspirations on paper: they must also be fully implemented in daily practice in the armed forces.

Ian Leigh
Security Sector Reform

Read the Reports

Making International Intelligence Cooperation Accountable

International cooperation across state borders is crucial to intelligence services in detecting and preventing threats to free societies. The need for international intelligence cooperation is particularly valuable in light of the sector's efforts against international terrorism. The need for trans-border cooperation has grown due to increased movement of people to and from volatile regions, and the increased threats posed by groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS. Irrefutably though, increasing cooperation among security agencies must be complimented by stronger democratic oversight.

Making International Intelligence Cooperation Accountable (by Born, Leigh and Wills) examines accountability in intelligence cooperation from several perspectives. The study is of utility to oversight bodies, intelligence services, as well as the general public.

Ian co-authored the definitive volume on the oversight of intelligence agencies (2005). Pre-dating and pre-empting the high-profile NSA activities, the report focuses on 'Making Intelligence Accountable' and looks at the differing roles of the intelligence agencies, parliament, the executive, and external review bodies. It also notes the difficult task of various public and private bodies in balancing the security interests against increasing need of accountability within the rule of law.

Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Armed Forces Personnel

Ian Leigh has co-authored the highly significant 'Handbook on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Armed Forces Personnel' which has been translated into seven different languages and widely cited.

The handbook is ripe with facts and figures illustrating complex issues. It includes policies, procedures, and relevant information from OSCE states, OSCE, CoE, EU, and the UN. Most chapters include best practice recommendations suggesting guidelines for upholding Human Rights in barracks.

Watch Evidence

Ian Leigh gave evidence to the EU Parliament LIBE Committee when it held an 'Inquiry on Electronic Mass Surveillance of EU Citizens' on 7 November 2013. A text version of his evidence, prepared jointly with Aidan Wills, is available here.

In a democracy no area of state activity should be a 'no-go' zone for parliament, including the security and intelligence sector.

Ian Leigh
Security Sector Reform