In March 2023, the GI-TOC held a roundtable to consult experts in human rights, digital rights, and criminal justice on the legal and human rights safeguards in the consolidated negotiation document proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee (AHC) for a treaty to counter the use of Information and communications technologies for criminal purposes (broadly referred to as the ‘cybercrime treaty’).

This expert consultation enabled a review of the current draft document and the negotiation process from the perspectives of digital rights, international and criminal law, and the private sector. It also allows us to see where consensus among multi-stakeholders is forming on the issue of human rights and legal safeguards in the process of negotiating the cybercrime treaty.

In January 2023, governments convened to outline their positions on the first part of the consolidated negotiation document. There was resistance from some states and groups of states to include human rights or legal safeguards (or the value thereof); others countered such resistance vocally. The resistance to these safeguards poses several risks. The first is that no international crime treaty should be without built-in legal safeguards. Secondly, the draft, as it stands, contains very permissive language for governments to cooperate in legal cases, technical assistance and general cooperation, potentially allowing for it to be used to suppress freedom of expression, association and political dissent. And, thirdly, this will be the first binding international treaty that governs cyberspace in any form. Any dialling back of safeguards during this early stage of the process, coupled with a draft that promotes expansive cooperation, risks creating a weak instrument in terms of human rights protection measures – and one that may be ratified by enough states to be codified in international law.

The focus of discussions was the second part of the draft text (yet to be negotiated at the time of the consultation), while including thoughts on the already debated text. The objective of this roundtable was to contribute ideas on safeguards to the negotiating process as negotiations proceed in the AHC.

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