Status regarding Budapest ConventionStatus : NA See legal profile
In late 2020, Belize adopted the National Cybersecurity Strategy (2020-2023), which seeks to establish a vision to enhance the cybersecurity posture of Belize. The National Cybersecurity Strategy identifies three areas of priority:
- develop a national legal framework to address cybersecurity threats
- develop capacity for incident response and critical infrastructure protection
- implement measures to support education, awareness and workforce policy development in cybersecurity.
Over the past few years, several government agencies have also been working to address cybersecurity. Since 2014, the Ministry of National Security has coordinated this at the national level. It organised a Cybersecurity Ad Hoc Committee, made up of multiple stakeholders, including academia and the private sector, to work together on building awareness about cybersecurity and cybercrime in Belize. Since then, an inter-institutional cybersecurity task force, led by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), Central Information Technology Office (CITO) and comprising a cross section of national stakeholders (both public and private sector, academia and civil society groups) was established in 2018 and helped to develop the National Cybersecurity Strategy.
State of cybercrime legislation
Belize has passed the Cybercrime Act 2020 which is now binding law. The Government of Belize through the Ministry of National Security received support through the GLACY+ project implemented by the Council of Europe. The Cybercrime Act is in line with the substantial and procedural provisions including the international cooperation measures of the Budapest Convention.
The Cybercrime Act 2020 provides for combatting cybercrime by creating offences of cybercrime; providing for penalties, investigation and prosecution of the offences of cybercrime; and providing for matters connected therewith.
Several other pieces of legislation relate to cybercrime:
- Telecommunications Act-CAP. 229 and 229S19,
- Electronic Evidence Act-CAP. 95:0120,
- Electronic Transactions Act-CAP. 29:0121,
- Intellectual Property Act
- Interception of Communications Act CAP. 229:0122
- Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (Belize/USA) Act- CAP. 103:0123.
In November 2021, the Belize Data Protection Act was passed into law.
The Cybercrime Act 2020 has defined the following offences:
Article 3. Illegal access to a computer system;
Article 4. Illegal access to computer data;
Article 5. Illegal data interference;
Article 6. Illegal system interference;
Article 7. Illegal devices and codes;
Article 8. Computer-related forgery;
Article 9. Identity-related fraud;
Article 10. Identity-related theft;
Article 11. Child luring;
Article 12. Publication or transmission of image of private area;
Article 13. No liability for service provider;
Article 14. Service provider to store traffic data and subscriber information;
Article 15. Using a computer system to coerce, harass, intimidate, humiliate, etc. a person;
Article 16. Infringement of copyright, patents and designs and trademarks;
Article 17. Attempt, aiding or abetting;
Article 18. Offences prejudicing investigation.
In addition, a number of other Acts define related offences:
Telecommunications Act 2002 – creates offences relating to the unauthorised interception or disruption of communications, and telecommunication fraud.
Electronic Transactions Act 2003 – “(a) to eliminate legal barriers to the effective use of electronic communications in transactions (b) to promote the harmonization of legal rules on electronic transactions across national boundaries; (c) to facilitate the appropriate use of electronic transactions; (d) to promote business and community confidence in electronic transactions; and (e) to enable business and the community to use electronic communications in their transactions with government.”
Interception of Communications Act (2010, as amended 2011) – outlines interception-related offences, and conditions and procedures for law enforcement. Section 3 of the Interception of Communications Act criminalises the offence of illegal interception. It is not clear whether interception of transmissions of computer data within a computer system will be criminalised. The definition of authorisation with respect to interception only covers interception pursuant to a warrant, interception acquired by the telecom regulator or financial intelligence unit pursuant to law, interception is publicly accessible, or the person has written or otherwise documented. It does not envisage inherited powers or non-documented consent to intercept a communication.
While Section 33(4) of the Copyright Act explicitly criminalises the infringement of copyright by transmission through a telecommunication system, it does not explicitly criminalise the infringement of copyright by means of a computer system.
Section 7(1) of the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Prohibition) Act, 2013 criminalises financing, procuring, reproducing, publishing or reproducing any written material, photographic material, video, film, electronic publication, virtual or other media of any form of child pornography. Section 7(2) criminalises the import, export, distribution, financing, offering, trading, selling or possessing for use or distribution or sale via printed or electronic media (including video, compact disks, digital video disks, phone messaging, computer image, internet, virtual media or by any other means). This would broadly criminalise most of the elements incorporated the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. Though the definition of “child pornography” covers visual representations of a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of eighteen whether or not made by electronic means, it would not necessarily include realistic images representing a minor (for instance, computer generated images that do not depict an actual child).
The Cybercrime Act 2020 regulates specific procedural measures:
Article 19. Ex-parte application for Storage Direction;
Article 20. Scope and form of Storage Direction;
Article 21. Ex-parte application for Search and Seizure Warrant;
Article 22. Application for a Storage Direction or Search and Seizure Warrant;
Article 23. Extension of time for prosecution of an offence;
Article 24. Record of seized material;
Article 25. Assistance;
Article 26. Ex-parte application for Production Order;
Article 27. Expedited Preservation Order;
Article 28. Removal or Disablement of Data Order;
Article 29. Ex-parte application for Remote Forensic Tools Order;
Article 30. Offence to disclose confidential information;
Article 31. No liability for person aiding in enforcement of Act;
Article 32. Application for Compensation Order;
Article 33. Ex-parte application for Forfeiture Order and issue of Restraint Order;
Article 34. Failure to comply with a Court order;
Article 35. Evidence;
Article 36. Determining the severity of charges.
Procedures regarding interception are stated in the Interception of Communications Act 2010, which provides detailed procedures with respect to exercising the power to collect or order collection of traffic data and to intercept or order the interception of communications (which includes content data). It also provides conditions and safeguards in respect of the exercise of these procedural powers.
The Constitution of Belize sets out a number of fundamental rights and freedoms:
Due judicial process (Art. 5 (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7), Art. 6 (2) (3) (4) (5) (6))
Right to life, freedom and security of person (Art. 3 (a))
Protection of family life, privacy, privacy of the home and other property (Art. 3 (c) and Art. 14)
Right to freedom of expression (Art. 12)
In addition, the Belize Data Protection Act 2021 regulates the collection, keeping, use and dissemination of personal data to protect the privacy of individuals in relation to their personal data.
Related laws and regulations
Electronic Transfer of Funds Crimes Bill, 2021
Electronic Transactions Bill 2021
Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Prohibition) Act, 2013
Interception of Communication Act (2010, as amended 2011)
Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, 2011
Electronic Transactions Act 2003
Caribbean Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Serious Criminal Matters, 2006
Financial Intelligence Units Act, 2014
With respect to cybercrime, the Police Information Technology and Cyber Unit (PITCU) of the Belize Police Department (BPD) manages the investigations of cyber-related crimes, as well as those felonies that involve electronic evidence. The PITCU has investigated cases of phishing, credit card and ATM fraud, as well as other crimes that involve electronic evidence, including drug trafficking. The PITCU have also reported that they have received reports of cyberbullying, revenge porn and identity theft. In terms of some international collaboration to counter cybercriminal activities, the PITCU holds a partnership with the Internet Watch Foundation in order to report cases of child pornography.
In addition, the National Cybersecurity Strategy recommends that a National Cybersecurity Coordinator, under the auspices of the Ministry of National Security, be appointed for the coordination of the implementation of actions identified in the Strategy.
Under the Data Protection Act 2021, the Data Protection Commissioner is responsible for the general administration of that act.
Belize does not have a national CERT/CIRT (Computer Emergency Response Team).
Competent authorities and channels
Mutual legal assistance (MLA) requests are guided by the Belize Mutual Legal Assistance and International Co-operation Act, 2014. The Act provides that mutual legal assistance may be provided to any foreign State whether on the basis of a treaty or not. The Attorney General is designated as the Central Authority under the Act.
The Scheme Relating to Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters within the Commonwealth (Harare Scheme) can also be used. In addition, Belize has domesticated the Caribbean Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Serious Criminal Matters.
Belize is a party to a treaty between the Government of Belize and the Government of the United States of America on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters signed on 19 September 2000 and ratified on 8 January 2001. This Treaty was incorporated in Belize by virtue of the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (Belize/USA) Act.
Belize can spontaneously transmit information on the basis of section 38(1) of the Cybercrime Act, section 5 of the Mutual Legal Assistance and International Co-operation Act and section 12(2) of the Financial Intelligence Units Act. Confidentiality is provided for in section 36 of the Mutual Legal Assistance and International Co-operation Act and section 12(1) Financial Intelligence Units Act.
Extradition is governed by the Belize Extradition Act, Chapter 112 of the Substantive Laws of Belize. The Cybercrime Act 2021 specifies that the offences described in this Act shall be deemed to be extraditable offences and the Extradition Act shall apply. In addition, Belize has entered into bilateral agreements on extradition with the United States, Guatemala and Mexico.
Competent authorities and channels
Section 4(1) of the Mutual Legal Assistance and International Co-operation Act designates the Attorney General as the central authority for MLA. The International Legal Affairs Unit (ILA) within the Attorney General’s Ministry of Belize advises the Government and associated agencies on legal matters that have international law components, both private and public. The Unit is responsible for the execution of MLA and extradition requests.
The central authority is empowered to transmit and receive MLA requests directly rather than through diplomatic channels. Section 7 of the Mutual Legal Assistance and International Co-operation Act sets out detailed requirements for the form and content of MLA requests to Belize. A request must be made in English (section 10(2)(b)) and must normally be in writing; if made orally in urgent circumstances, it must be confirmed in writing (section 6). If the information provided in the request is not sufficient, Belize may request the foreign State to provide additional information (section 7(2)). However, lack of information shall not affect the validity of the request nor preclude its execution (section 7(2) and (3)).
Section 10 of the Mutual Legal Assistance and International Co-operation Act gives the central authority discretion to decline a request for reasons including costs, legal professional privilege, and ordre public. The Mutual Legal Assistance and International Co-operation Act does not make dual criminality a requirement for granting assistance. Under section 11 of the Mutual Legal Assistance and International Co-operation Act, the grounds for refusal of an MLA request must be communicated to the requesting country.
Sources and links
- Acts of Parliament - National Assembly
- Laws of Belize – The Attorney General’s Ministry of Belize
- Belize Police Department
- Director of Public Prosecutions
- Supreme Court of Belize
- International Legal Affairs Unit (ILA) at the Attorney General’s Ministry of Belize
- Financial Intelligence Unit Belize
- Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, Implementation Review Group, Executive summary – Belize, (CAC/COSP/IRG/I/4/1/Add.64)
These profiles do not necessarily reflect official positions of the States covered or of the Council of Europe.
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- Cybercrime website
- Template: Mutual Legal Assistance Request for subscriber information (Art. 31 Budapest Convention). English and bilingual versions available.
- Template: Data Preservation Request (Articles 29 and 30 Budapest Convention). English and bilingual versions available.