British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have spied on the Cairo-based NGO the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an independent British court said on Monday.
The Investigatory Power Tribunal (IPT) said that it found that EIPR'S email communications had been "lawfully and proportionately intercepted and accessed" by the GCHQ, but "retained for materially longer than permitted".
The court explained that the spying came in light of GCHQ's internal policy of mass surveillance, which means that the interception of the email communication itself cannot be considered unlawful, as it took place for "technical" purposes.
No official response has yet been issued by the EIPR.
The EIPR, which was founded in 2002, works on monitoring Egypt's human rights record and governmental economic policies through research, advocacy and documentation.
Founded in 2000, the IPT is a British independent judicial body responsible for overseeing the surveillance activities conducted by public bodies as well as hearing complaints against intelligence services.
In the same proceedings on Monday, the IPT also ruled that GCHQ had retained South African Legal Resource Centre (LRC) email communications for longer than it should have.
"Although the ruling goes on to hold that no use was made of the intercepted material and that the Legal Resources Centre has not suffered material detriment, damage or prejudice, the mere fact that communications were unlawfully intercepted – information that may never have come to our knowledge had this case not been instituted – is of serious concern," the LRC said in a statement issued late Monday.
This is the third ruling recently issued by the LPT against GCHQ.
In February, the court ruled that GCHQ's access to intelligence gathered by the US National Security Agency (NSA) was unlawful.
In April, the court ordered GCHQ to destroy documents "illegally" collected from Libyan politician Sami Al-Saadi.