ARTICLE 19 delivered the following statement at the sixth session of negotiations of the Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes (the Cybercrime Convention) at the United Nations in New York. The statement was followed by a joint submission together with Human Rights Watch to the Ad Hoc Committee to Elaborate a Comprehensive International Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes (the Ad Hoc Committee), where we highlight a number of human rights concerns in the Draft Text: the near unlimited scope of the Convention, over-criminalisation that endangers freedom of expression and access to information, increased policing powers, and inadequate human rights safeguards.
The statement follows below.
ARTICLE 19 reports on the rights of freedom of expression and opinion, and has followed the treaty negotiations closely. We want to briefly provide a resource to the delegations on the topic of the treaty’s scope, which has been a cornerstone of this group and previous sessions.
Together with Human Rights Watch, we have published a detailed legal analysis on the issue of scope as it appears in several articles of the text, including articles 37-39, and how they interact with articles 17 and 40. There are at least half a dozen cross-references within the text. We are sensitive to the fact that delegations are not only concerned with adopting positions on scope, but making sure those positions remain consistent throughout the treaty. As a practising attorney myself, analysing the complex cross-references has been a challenge.
We strongly endorse limiting extradition and other procedural powers to Articles 6 through 16 [substantive offences introduced by the Convention]. Broadening the scope to offences created in Article 17, as well as ‘serious offences,’ would introduce significant loopholes. For example, if extradition is limited to offences named in the treaty, but assistance can be provided for any ‘serious’ offence, then states are enabled to seek extradition for a much broader range of offences.
To consider the stakes of the treaty’s scope, consider no further than this negotiation room, yesterday. The important work of the delegations was stalled for nearly an hour as we heard the re-introduction of previously rejected proposals that would criminalise expressive and political activity [including problematic proposals by the Russian Federation to punish ‘terrorism’ and ‘promoting extremism’]. So we already know where many States stand on what this treaty should punish. Expanded scope would only enable that further.
ARTICLE 19 and Human Rights Watch are available here in the room to discuss our legal analysis further with the delegations. Thank you.