Global Fight Against Cybercrime: Undoing the Paralysis by Zahid Jamil

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Zahid Jamil is a Senior Partner with the family law firm of Jamil and Jamil. He qualified as a Barrister from Gray’s Inn and is currently practicing law in Pakistan specializing in corporate and commercial law, technology, intellectual property rights, cybercrime and counterterrorism.

"One of the unique advantages of the Con- vention is its ability to enable cooperation across borders..."
"The Convention also only establishes a minimum standard of crimalized behavior internationally..."

As the Internet exploded across the globe in the mid-1990s, the Council of Europe was the only intergovernmental treaty organization to recognize that “only a binding international instrument can ensure the necessary efficiency in the fight against [cybercrime]”1 and began the work of drafting a convention as early as 1996 that would “not only deal with criminal substantive law matters, but also with criminal pro– cedural questions as well as with international criminal law procedures and agreements.”

At the time, the developed countries from across the globe, which possessed the infrastructure and the majority of Internet users, came together out of a common interest to negotiate a draft convention. Four years of negotiations later, in 2001, they finalized the Treaty – the Budapest Con- vention on Cybercrime (“the Convention”).

The Convention not only assisted in the convergence, consistency and compatibility of cybercrime legislation between infrastructure countries but also guided developing nations towards best practices in writing their own cyber- crime legislation. For instance, in 2002, having drafted and assisted my country, Pakistan, in enacting its Electronic Transactions Ordinance, my government sought my advice on cybercrime legislation. The only model of effective legislation for inter- national cooperation for combating cybercrime available then and now was the Convention; my advice was to pro- mulgate legislation consistent with the Convention and consider accession.

Today, even after ten years, the Convention represents the only interna- tional instrument and the best hope for countries to establish common minimum standards of relevant offens- es, prevent criminals operating from jurisdictions with lower standards and enable speedy and 24/7 international cooperation between law enforcement.

Nonetheless, the continued grow- ing support for the Convention, par- ticularly in developing nations, is by no means assured or inevitable. The Con- vention faces opposition from certain quarters that traditionally tend to pro- mote a greater role for the regulation of the Internet by UN bodies. This article attempts to raise awareness about the challenges faced by those advocating in favor of the Convention in many devel- oping countries, with the hope that a coalition of ‘friends of the convention’ can help reverse the permeating but weak narrative of its opponents, which seems to have embedded itself in the hearts and minds of some developing nation policymakers. (purchase article...)