council of europe standards council of europe standards

Threats such as cybercrime and the sexual exploitation and abuse of children through information and communication technologies pose particular challenges. The Council of Europe is addressing these by setting common standards and policies, by supporting educational, preventive and other measures to empower children, by promoting criminal justice action and by strengthening multi-stakeholder and international cooperation.

Council of Europe standards related to the protection of children and the promotion of their rights include numerous treaties and recommendations, in particular the:

  • Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (CETS 005)
  • European Social Charter (CETS 035)
  • European Convention on the Adoption of Children (CETS 202 as revised)
  • European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CETS 126)
  • European Convention on the Exercise of Children's Rights (CETS 160)
  • Convention on Cybercrime (CETS 185)
  • Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS 197)
  • Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS 201)
  • Recommendation Rec(2006)12 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on empowering children in the new information and communications environment
  • Declaration on protecting the dignity, security and privacy of children on the Internet, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 20 February 2008
  • Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to protect children against harmful content and behaviour and to promote their active participation in the new information and communications environment, adopted on 8 July 2009.
Convention on Cybercrime Convention on Cybercrime

The “Budapest” Convention on Cybercrime is the global standard on cybercrime. The implementation of the Convention is followed by the Cybercrime Convention Committee (T-CY), which is also responsible for dealing with policy issues and legal questions arising from the practical co-operation under this instrument. The Convention stipulates that state parties:

  • criminalise offences against and through computer systems. Article 9 covers child pornography in a broad manner
  • introduce procedural law measures to provide law enforcement with effective means to investigate cybercrime including child pornography and the sexual exploitation and abuse of children related to computer systems
  • cooperate efficiently with each other and provides a framework for international cooperation, including police and judicial cooperation in computer-related cases involving crimes against children.

This treaty represents the global standard and is open for accession by any country. Canada, Japan and South Africa have signed it, the USA has ratified it and Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Philippines have been invited to accede. More than 100 countries around the world have used or are using this treaty as a guideline for national legislation.

With regard to cybercrime, including computer-related offences against children, cooperation between law enforcement authorities and service providers is essential. For that reason, the Council of Europe – through the Project on Cybercrime – developed “Guidelines for the cooperation between law enforcement and ISPs in the investigation of cybercrime”. 

The Lanzarote Convention The Lanzarote Convention

This Convention represents the most advanced and comprehensive standard in this field. A Committee of the Parties, the Lanzarote Committee,  monitors  the implementation of the Convention. The Convention provides for:

  • the criminalisation of sexual abuse of children, child prostitution, child pornography, grooming and other conduct
  • preventive measures and assistance to victims
  • the participation of children, the private sector, the media and civil society in measures to protect children and prevent their abuse
  • holding nationals accountable for offences committed abroad
  • protecting children in the course of criminal proceedings
  • international cooperation.

The Convention contains many references to the use of information and communication technologies in the context of the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children. For example, it requires states to criminalise conduct such as knowingly accessing child pornography on the Internet. This treaty and the Convention on Cybercrime thus complement each other.

Broadest possible implementation of this treaty together with the Convention on Cybercrime is recommended as effective means to protect children against sexual exploitation and abuse and to hold offenders accountable.

Technical cooperation Technical cooperation

Through the Global Project on Cybercrime, the Council of Europe supports countries worldwide in their efforts against cybercrime. Following a first phase from September 2006 to February 2009, the second phase is currently underway (March 2009 to June 2011) with public and private sector support.

The project is aimed at ensuring the implementation of the Convention on Cybercrime and consists of seven components, ranging from the strengthening of cybercrime legislation to law enforcement – service provider cooperation, financial investigations, data protection and international cooperation. One component is focusing on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and abuse in line with the two conventions (CETS 185 on cybercrime and CETS 201 on the protection of children).

Within the Global Project on Cybercrime, a global study on the measures taken by countries to criminalise conduct related to the sexual exploitation and abuse of children, including child pornography is currently conducted.

Countries are welcome to join the study: Questionnaire on substantive law provisions: English / French

Educative and preventive measures Educative and preventive measures

The 3rd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe (Warsaw 2005), among other things, led to the programme “Building a Europe for and with Children”. This programme aims at promoting the rights of children as well as their protection against all forms of violence. It is built on the four “P’s” of prevention, prosecution, protection and participation. Among the preventive measures related to the new media are a computer-game for children (Wild Web Woods) and an Internet Literacy Handbook.

A high-level conference on this topic in September 2008 led to the Stockholm strategy 2009 – 2011 with the objectives of implementing international standards in all 47 member States and of mainstreaming a child-rights perspective in all activities of the Council of Europe. For autumn 2010, a Europe-wide campaign against sexual violence against children is planned with a particular reference to the new media.

The Council of Europe furthermore recommends that:

Children are empowered so that they can acquire the necessary skills to create, produce and distribute content and communications helps them to exercise and enjoy their rights and freedoms, especially the right to freedom of expression and information. This is why the Committee of Ministers recommends (in its Recommendation (2006)012)) that member states ensure children become familiar with, and skilled in, the new information and communications environment and that, to this end, information literacy and training for children become an integral part of school education from an early stage in their lives.

Children have the confidence and trust online by being able to use “islands of trust” otherwise known as “walled gardens” in which they explore, learn and play. This is why CM adopted Recommendation (2009) 5 so that public-private partnerships are encouraged to (i) create and facilitate confidence building environments (walled gardens) for children to safely explore the Internet, (ii) create a human rights based pan-European trustmark which harnesses new and existing online content labelling systems, and (iii) improve children’s media literacy.

Children’s dignity, security and privacy on the Internet is strengthened and developed, in particular so that there are no lasting or permanently accessible records of the content created by children on the Internet which challenges their dignity, security and privacy or otherwise renders them vulnerable now or at a later stage in their lives.

Children have access to filters which are age appropriate and “intelligent” as a means of encouraging access to and confident use of the Internet and be a complement to other strategies on how to tackle harmful content. In this connection, the use of such filters should be proportionate and should not lead to the overprotection of children.

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Alexander Seger
Cybercrime Division
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