In a historic ICT policy achievement, Sri Lanka has now become the first country in South Asia to be invited to join the Budapest Cybercrime Convention. This was communicated in a letter sent to the Secretary, Foreign Affairs recently by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. It was consequent upon a decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
The Budapest Convention on Cybercrime is also known as the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime. It is the only available international treaty on the subject seeking to address Internet and computer crime by harmonizing national laws, improving investigative techniques, and increasing cooperation among nations.
Alexander Seger, the Head of Cybercrime Division of the Council of Europe said that “the Budapest Cybercrime Convention is an international Convention open for any country to accede that is prepared to implement it. Not only European countries but also states such as the USA, Australia, Japan, Dominican Republic or Mauritius are already parties. Others such as Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa and the Philippines have signed it or been invited to accede. Sri Lanka is now one of them. We hope that other countries of South Asia will follow Sri Lanka’s example and fully engage in international cooperation against cybercrime.”
“Joining a European Convention of this nature will be a tremendous boost to Sri Lanka in terms of how the country is perceived in the international arena for ICT” , said ICTA’s Chairperson Ms. Chitranganie Mubarak.
Underlining the benefits that will accrue to Sri Lanka by joining this Convention, ICTA Programme Director/ Legal Advisor Jayantha Fernando said: “Accession to the Convention will significantly help in the successful investigation of Cybercrime offences. It will also help in law enforcement and judicial cooperation at international level, while ensuring human rights safeguards in the investigation process”.
Explaining further, Fernando said “Cybercrime offences are transnational and multi-jurisdictional in nature. Therefore, the effective fight against cybercrime requires us to obtain evidence stored on computer systems and networks in other countries. The Budapest Convention facilitates cooperation to this effect. The Convention will greatly enhance the gathering of electronic evidence, the investigation of cyber laundering and other serious crimes”.
Elaborating on the benefits, Fernando said: “Joining this Convention will help Sri Lanka to become a South Asian hub for cybercrime enforcement. This can lead to the establishment of a Centre of Excellence to train law enforcement professionals on cybercrime issues”.
As regards the Commitments under the Budapest Cybercrime Convention, Jayantha Fernando stated: “The Sri Lankan Computer Crimes Act No. 24 of 2007 was founded on the principles contained in the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. As such Sri Lanka already has the required domestic legislation to accede to this convention”.
A significant amount of work was done before Sri Lanka was invited to join this important Convention. The ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) took the lead policy initiative in this connection, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice. As required under the rules of procedures of the Convention it was necessary to obtain the unanimous agreement of all state parties to the Convention before Sri Lanka could be invited. Following informal and formal consultations with state parties full consensus was achieved to invite Sri Lanka.