russian-led-resolution-on-cybercrime-treaty

Context: The United Nations approved a Russian-led bid that aims to create a new convention on cybercrime, alarming rights groups and Western powers that fear a bid to restrict online freedom.

About Russian led resolution on Cybercrime 

  • The Russian proposal entitled “Countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes” passed in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Third Committee 88-58, with 34 absentations, on Monday. 
  • The proposal, which India voted in favour of, creates a committee to convene in August 2020 in New York to establish a new treaty through which nation-states can coordinate and share data to prevent cybercrime.
  • India maintained its status as a non-member of the Europe-led Budapest Convention, even as it voted in favour of a Russian-led UN resolution to set up a separate convention

Background

  • Worldwide, governments are struggling not only with the increasing levels of cybercrime but also with the complexities of securing electronic evidence (e-evidence) of any type of crime or economic offence.
  • Western nations Vs. Russia:
    • On one side, there is a global treaty, known as the Budapest Convention, which was drafted with strong support from the United States and its allies. 
    • Russia has opposed the Budapest Convention, arguing that giving investigators access to computer data across borders violates national sovereignty.
    • The United States argues that the world should instead expand its sole existing accord on cybercrime, the 2001 Budapest Convention.

About Budapest Convention on cybercrime

It provides for 

  • the criminalisation of conduct, ranging from illegal access, data and systems interference to computer-related fraud and child pornography; 
  • procedural law tools to make the investigation of cybercrime and the securing of e-evidence in relation to any crime more effective and 
  • international police and judicial cooperation on cybercrime and e-evidence.

The Budapest Convention is supplemented by a Protocol on Xenophobia and Racism committed through computer systems.

  • In 2014, the Council of Europe established a dedicated Programme Office on Cybercrime (C-PROC) in Bucharest, Romania. 
  • This triangle of common standards (Budapest Convention), follow-up and assessments (Cybercrime Convention Committee) and capacity building (C-PROC) represents a dynamic framework under the convention.

Members: 67 states — together with 10 international organisations (such as the Commonwealth Secretariat, INTERPOL, International Telecommunication Union and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime) participate as members or observers in the Cybercrime Convention Committee. 

Significance: Securing e-evidence for criminal justice purposes is particularly challenging in the context of cloud computing where data is distributed over different services, providers, locations and often jurisdictions, and where mutual legal assistance is often not feasible.

India and the Budapest Convention: While membership in the Budapest Convention more than doubled since then, India is yet to join this treaty. 

India's concern

  • As India did not participate in the negotiation of the Convention and thus should not sign it. India can become a member but we cannot participate in making or changing the law.
  • The Budapest Convention allows for transborder access to data and thus infringes on national sovereignty. 
  • It is a criminal justice treaty and thus does not cover state actors or that some of the states from which most attacks affecting India emanate have not signed the Convention. 
  • India should promote a treaty at the UN level: India wants a treaty to focus on terrorism, or to address state-to-state relations and matters of international security.
  • The Budapest Convention has been validly criticized for its lack of human rights and legal safeguards.