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United Nations Headquarters building in Manhattan, New York City, on December 21, 2021. © 2021 Sergi Reboredo / VWPics via AP Images

(New York) – The draft global cybercrime treaty risks facilitating the domestic and international crackdown on human rights with the blessing of the United Nations, Human Rights Watch said today in supporting a joint statement issued by over 100 groups from around the world to negotiators at the UN. The concluding session of negotiations will be held from January 29 to February 9, 2024, at the UN headquarters in New York.

The states negotiating at the UN should ensure that the proposed Cybercrime Convention is narrowly focused on tackling cybercrime and effectively incorporates strong and meaningful human rights safeguards, or they should reject it, the groups said in issuing the statement on January 23, 2024.

“Despite multiple rounds of negotiations, fundamental flaws continue to plague this proposed cybercrime convention, which poses a significant risk to human rights and fails to effectively tackle cybercrime,” said Deborah Brown, acting associate technology and human rights director at Human Rights Watch. “If states cannot agree on vital human right safeguards and a narrow scope, then we urge them to reject it.”

The joint statement points to critical shortcomings in the current draft of the Cybercrime Convention, which threatens freedom of expression, privacy, and other human rights. The draft convention contains over broad criminal provisions, weak – and in some places nonexistent – human rights safeguards, and provides for excessive cross-border information sharing and cooperation requirements, which could facilitate intrusive surveillance.

Cybercrime regimes around the world have been misused to target and surveil human rights defenders, journalists, security researchers, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, in blatant violation of human rights. The draft convention's overbreadth also threatens to undermine its own objectives by diluting efforts to address actual cybercrime while failing to safeguard legitimate security research, leaving people less secure online.

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