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  • Human Rights Research Center

Unresolved Key Issues in Global Cyber Treaty Negotiations Raise Concerns of Human Rights Abuses

September 6, 2023

United Nations Headquarters building in Manhattan, New York City. [Image credit: Sergi Reboredo / VWPics via AP Images]

Cited article by Deborah Brown and Tamir Israel, Human Rights Watch

HRRC stands with Human Rights Watch in expressing deep concern regarding the lack of agreement among governments in discussions about a proposed global cybercrime treaty at the United Nations. The outcome of these meetings could potentially permit the misuse of cybercrime laws, expand state control, and pose serious risks to human rights, both domestically and internationally.

News Brief

Over the past two weeks, governments have convened with the United Nations to discuss a proposed global cybercrime treaty. The purpose of the treaty is to reach a consensus to reshape cybercrime legislation worldwide and redefine cross-border law enforcement. However, after four years of development, there is still a lack of agreement on basic issues such as defining the treaty's scope and addressing human rights concerns. The main dispute centers on whether the treaty should exclusively focus on computer-related offenses or encompass a broader spectrum of crimes, potentially encroaching on online expression. Moreover, concerns arise about the treaty's potential to overburden international cooperation efforts, enabling governments to conduct intrusive surveillance without the need for judicial authorization or a clear connection to an actual crime.

The lack of consensus on applying human rights protections in these cooperative efforts could allow each country to determine its own criteria for cooperation and safeguards. This approach may lead to governments facilitating prosecutions that do not align with international human rights standards. Under the treaty, governments could cooperate on cases that might not truly constitute cybercrimes, including examples such as men sentenced to death for peaceful online expression, the conviction of a journalist on charges of criminal libel, and LGBT people affected by digital targeting. This raises significant concerns about the misuse of cybercrime laws to suppress dissent, stifle freedom of speech, and unjustly target individuals for non-criminal activities.


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