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Opening of the Plenary Meeting of the Cybercrime Convention

Strasbourg 28 May 2021
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As delivered

 

 

Chair,

Distinguished colleagues,

Today’s plenary marks an important step towards a more safe, secure and just environment online.

And I congratulate all members of this Committee who have contributed to the draft Protocol that you are invited to adopt today.

After several years of hard work, including many meetings of the representatives of the 66 parties, at all times of the day – even nights – you have succeeded, and I salute you.

What you have done is really important, as we know that cybercrime has gone up dramatically over recent years;

That only a small percentage of those crimes are ever reported to criminal justice authorities;

And that, of those that are reported, only a small number result in convictions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made this even worse.

Criminals have stepped up their activities, exploiting changes to the ways in which people live and work, at a moment of hardship and real vulnerability.

Addressing these things is far from easy.

The devices, victims and evidence of these crimes are often spread across multiple jurisdictions.

And an effective criminal justice response therefore requires rules and procedures for cross-border investigations and the disclosure of complex evidence, often from the cloud.

But these are just some of the issues that this second Additional Protocol seeks to resolve.

It will provide a basis for direct co-operation between authorities in one country and service providers in others, so that suspects can be better identified;

It will permit instant international co-operation in emergency situations where lives are at risk;

And it will allow more efficient government-to-government co-operation and mutual assistance between parties.

In short, this Protocol will facilitate more effective investigations and ensure that the rule of law reaches deeper into cyberspace than ever before.

But that reach comes with safeguards.

The Council of Europe’s commitment to protecting human rights is absolute.

And the Protocol contains a range of safeguards designed to achieve that.

Key among them is a detailed article on the protection of personal data.

Because of this, personal data transferred under the terms of the Protocol will have a level of protection that is unrivalled among criminal law treaties.

More effective criminal investigations, coupled with clear respect for human rights, is the best means by which to reassure people and give them confidence to be safe and active online.

At the same time, the Budapest Convention remains as relevant as ever.

Twenty years after it was opened for signature, this remains the “gold standard” for international criminal justice, when it comes to cybercrime.

Sweden was the latest country to ratify it – just a few weeks ago – and its membership keeps on growing.

This is a good thing. We all welcome it.

But it will only continue so long as the Convention itself keeps pace with the changing technological environment in which we live:

That it proves effective for ensuring an internet in which people can access and share information safely and freely.

And where restrictions are efficient, but limited to the purpose of countering criminal misuse.

That is what this Protocol aims to achieve.

And we should be inspired by the position adopted by our member States at last week’s Ministerial Session in Hamburg.

There, the Ministers made clear that they would like to see the Protocol adopted by the Committee of Ministers before the Budapest Convention’s twentieth anniversary in November.

This is testament to the purpose and quality of the text.

It is a recognition of all who have been involved in shaping it.

And something of which we all should be proud.

I wish you all a very successful plenary.

Thank you.