23 Jan 2024

100+ civil society groups call for comprehensive changes to rights-threatening UN Cybercrime Convention

A collective of over 100 civil society organisations, including GPD, today issue a joint statement calling for urgent changes to the UN’s proposed Cybercrime Convention to avoid potentially disastrous impacts on human rights. 

The latest draft of the proposed Convention—which is set to enter its final negotiations next week—fails to address many significant human rights concerns raised by groups throughout its development process. 

In particular, the letter notes that the Convention: 

  • Is over-broad in the range of activities it requires states to criminalise, giving rise to the danger that the Convention will be used to criminalize legitimate online expression;
  • Fails to incorporate language sufficient to protect security researchers, whistleblowers, activists, and journalists from excessive criminalization, and ensure that activities conducted in the public interest are protected;
  • Contains insufficient references to states’ obligations under international human rights law, including the principles of non-discrimination, legality, legitimate purpose, necessity and proportionality, and fails to incorporate robust safeguards applicable to the whole Convention;
  • Lacks effective gender mainstreaming, providing inadequate protection against gender discrimination;
  • Proposes to create legal regimes to monitor, store, and allow cross-border sharing of information in manner that would undermine cybersecurity and infringe on international human rights law and standards, including the requirements for prior judicial authorisation;
  • Permits excessive information sharing for law enforcement cooperation, beyond the scope of specific criminal investigations and without specific, explicit data protection and human rights safeguards.

In light of these critical human rights concerns, the civil society groups issuing the statement set out basic, minimum requirements to ensure the Convention does not endanger human rights and fundamental freedoms nor undermine cybersecurity. 

Without these minimum requirements, GPD and others call on policymakers to reject the draft Convention. The proposed Convention must not serve as a validation of intrusion and surveillance practices harmful to human rights.


Next steps

The UN Ad Hoc Committee will convene from January 29 to February 9 to conclude the negotiation of the Convention. We will be engaging with a focus on pushing for strong and meaningful safeguards to protect human rights, ensuring legal clarity for fairness and due process, and fostering international cooperation under the rule of law. 

You can follow us on X for updates from the negotiations. We will also be responding to the outcomes of the final negotiation session in our monthly newsletter. If you would like further information, please contact ellie{at}gp-digital.org