African states urged to ratify Budapest Cybercrime Convention

The Council of Europe (CoE) not to be confused with the more powerful European Union (EU) is leading the rest of the world in a push to have more countries ratify the Convention on Cybercrime. CoE's former Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal affairs, Head of Economic Crime Division, Alexander Seger, was recently in Nairobi for the sixth Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Seger now heads CoE's new cybercrime division as the organisation reorganised itself to put more structure on cybercrime.

Seger clarified that while EU rules apply only to its 27 members, CoE's convention are open to any country in the world. CoE's Budapest Convention was opened for signature in Budapest, on 23 November 2001.

The Budapest convention covers three things. Seger says it asks all countries to criminalise conduct of cybercrimes, including attacks against computer systems such as hacking.

The second item covered by the Convention is asking countries that ratify it to criminalise attacks using computer systems. This include pornography. Countries should put in place measures that deal with seizure of electronic evidence and securing of the same. Seger says that is is very important that this measure be clearly defined in law and that there are safe-guards. "A warrant, for example, must only allow for searching of certain parts of a computer only," he says.

Third, the Budapest Convention seeks to promote International Co-operation on cybercrime. Any country can take up the convention and develop legislation in line with it. Doing this makes sure countries have compatible and harmonised but not identical cybercrime legislation. "A country is able to come up with fairly complete cybercrime legislation by using the convention when coming up with its own law," says Seger as he explains the convention covers most legal gaps.

Using the treaty though does not qualify a country for co-operation from other countries. A country has to sign and ratify the treaty.