Joint conference between the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean and the Council of Europe

Counter-terrorism and new technologies: from prevention to prosecution, at national and international levels the need for parliamentarians’ support

10 October 2019, Strasbourg



•             Welcome the Parliamentarians of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean and the support of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to this event.

•             When at the last Octopus Conference 2018, Ambassador Jean-Paul Laborde made a proposal to organise a joint conference between the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean and the Council of Europe through the CyberSouth project, it was with great pleasure that we welcomed the initiative.

•             We are convinced that international cooperation can be effective only if similar standards are adopted and implemented worldwide. This is what drives our cooperation with the countries of the Southern neighbourhood region – our conviction that together we are better and stronger that alone.

•             And this cannot be truer than in the topics we are dealing with today. Cyber-terrorists cross several real and virtual borders to perpetrate their heinous crimes. They aim at disrupting or destroying our critical infrastructures, at misusing the financial system and taking advantage of crypto-currencies to fund their operations, or at using the internet to spread their hateful propaganda.

•             Blockchain technology can help counter cybercrime, including cyberterrorism. However, the growth of criminal activity using the blockchain technology may also be enhanced if the law enforcement agencies are not technologically competent to counter these plans at a faster pace.

•             Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not science-fiction. It is a reality we need to confront. For instance, I am sure you will remember the 2017 WannaCry and NotPetya attacks. These attacks – which some countries qualified as cyber-terrorism – affected organisations in more than 150 countries, caused business interruptions with direct losses estimated at well over 300 million dollars by some companies, without counting the reputational damage and the loss of data.

Cyber-terrorism not only kills people, but disrupts businesses and our ordinary lives in an unprecedented manner. 

•             We therefore must act, each within our remit, but in a coordinated and cooperative manner. And we must also be ahead of the curve by anticipating the use that terrorist could make of Artificial Intelligence.

We have recently created an intergovernmental committee at the Council of Europe focusing on Artificial Intelligence. We want to develop a legal framework for the development, design and application of Artificial Intelligence which is based on the Council of Europe’s standards on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

I am sure no one wants an army of terrorist-robots driven by Artificial Intelligence spreading terror in our cities. No country or institution can succeed in tackling these unprecedented challenges alone.

•             We have already developed or are continuing to develop binding legal norms in both the cyber and the counter-terrorism fields.

•             First, the Council of Europe’s Budapest Convention on Cybercrime with 64 Parties including non-European States. This is the only treaty worldwide dealing with crimes committed on, through or against computer systems. It is a unique treaty which should be ratified by all countries.

•             Second, the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism ratified by 39 countries and by the European Union, and its Additional Protocol, ratified by 18 countries and signed by 23 others.

These treaties - which are open to non-member states - deal with such issues as recruitment for terrorism, training for terrorism, public provocation to commit a terrorist offence and the travelling abroad for the purpose of terrorism.

•             Third, the Council of Europe Convention on combating money laundering and terrorist financing, ratified by 35 States and signed by 8. This Convention aims at cutting terrorists from their funds by allowing quick access to financial information or information on assets held by terrorist groups. This is one of the best way to stop them.

The use of virtual assets, the exploitation of new technologies and the use of social media to raise funds are challenges we need to recognise and address.

The Council of Europe contributes to the global efforts against money laundering and terrorist financing through our Financial Action Task Force-style regional body, known as Moneyval.

•             These counter-terrorism treaties are part and parcel of the broader Counter-Terrorism Strategy of our Organisation led by our Counter-Terrorism Committee.

Our approach is simple and focuses on prevention of terrorism, prosecution of terrorists and protection of victims. One cannot be successful without the other.

•             Besides the elaboration of the standards, we work with countries – bilaterally or regionally – to provide the necessary technical assistance to translate these international standards into domestic regulations.

Our CyberSouth project - a joint project of the European Union and the Council of Europe on cooperation against cybercrime in the Southern neighbourhood region working simultaneously with Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia - is ready to assist countries from the southern neighbourhood region in the review of domestic legislation on cybercrime and electronic evidence.

•             You as parliamentarians have a key role to play in participating in our collective efforts to tackle the threats of cyber-terrorism. And you can do so at multiple levels.

•             First, you can ensure that any measure taken to prevent terrorism, prosecute terrorists and protect us against threats of terrorism and cybercrime, is in accordance with the law and necessary in a democratic society.

Anything less is doomed to fail: an effective fight against terrorism is one which stops more terrorists than it helps to recruit.

•             Second, you can facilitate PAM members’ accession to and implementation of a number of our treaties that I mention today. As terrorism is linked to cybercrime and electronic evidence, I strongly encourage PAM members that are not yet Parties to consider joining the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime as soon as possible.

This treaty provides you with a set of unique tools to access e-evidence related not only to cybercrime but also to terrorism. At the very least, I encourage PAM members to adopt domestic legislation in line with this treaty.

Of the 64 States Parties to the Budapest Convention, 20 are PAM members. This is an encouraging sign.

•             Likewise, I encourage PAM member countries to carefully consider the criminalisation of preparatory acts linked to terrorism and draw inspiration from the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol.

And finally, countering terrorist financing in line with our anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism Convention is another area I wish to draw your attention to as Parliamentarians.     

•             Ladies and gentlemen, as I said earlier, we need to be at least one step ahead of cyber-terrorists. I already mentioned our work on Artificial Intelligence.

In respect of the Budapest Convention, we are working on a second additional Protocol to it on enhanced mutual assistance and access to electronic evidence.

This work demonstrates the continuous relevance of this international treaty and the wish of the Parties to keep it on par with societal and technological developments.

We are also working on a definition of terrorism which will greatly help the implementation of our norms: we need to have a common understanding of what we are talking about.

•             Ladies and Gentlemen, let me conclude. I hope that this conference will bring you, parliamentarians, in a better position to contribute to shaping an effective criminal justice response to the challenges of terrorists abusing information technologies.

A response that at the same time meets rule of law and human rights requirements. And in turn, that we, as international organisation, will be in better position to understand how to involve you more in our standard setting and technical assistance programmes.

Thank you for your attention and I wish you a successful conference.