14 - 15 May 2013
Strasbourg, France


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To protect society from terrorism and organised crime, law-enforcement must apply modern investigation methods incorporating the latest advances in technology. These include interception of telephone and Internet communication, electronic surveillance, undercover operations and other means known as “special investigation techniques”, or ways of gathering information without alerting the suspect. It is clear that such techniques must be regulated to ensure the respect of the Human Rights and the rule of law with regard to suspects, victims and third persons. Equally obviously, if regulation varies widely from country to country, the information gathered will be of limited use in criminal proceedings across jurisdictions.

The international community has therefore made efforts to establish principles and guidelines governing the use of special investigation techniques. One of the more detailed texts is Recommendation (2005)10 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to member states on “special investigation techniques” in relation to serious crimes including acts of terrorism. However, since 2005, computer and Internet technology has made great strides offering new possibilities to criminals and terrorists but also to law enforcement.

On 14 and 15 May 2013, the Council of Europe hosted in Strasbourg a Conference on special investigation techniques, in close co-operation with the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the League of Arab States.

Representatives of the members of the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the League of Arab States with relevant experience in the area of preventing and combating terrorism and organised crime, as well as several non-governmental organisations and think-tanks were invited to the conference.

The aim of the Conference was to bring a broader perspective to examining the existing international legal frameworks governing the use of such techniques, to identify new developments in this area since the adoption of Recommendation Rec(2005)10, to exchange views on the challenges faced by states when applying such techniques and on best practices to overcome these challenges while fully respecting Human Rights and the rule of law.

The outcome of the Conference might be useful when considering the need for updating the standards and guidelines applicable to the use of special investigation techniques.