The Netherlands adopts cybercrime pact

The Netherlands is adopting an international treaty to ease crime fighting in cyberspace even before the treaty has been signed.

The Netherlands is adopting an international treaty to ease crime fighting in cyberspace even before the treaty has been signed.

The Dutch Department of Justice told members of Parliament on Tuesday that Dutch law needs to be changed to be in accordance with the crime in cyberspace treaty. The treaty is still in draft and has various stages to go before signing, which is expected to take place late next year.

“The Netherlands wants to show the way,” said Peter Csonka, deputy head of the division of economic crime at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. “It’s the first time I’ve heard about an amendment process being put in place.”

The Council of Europe, which groups together 41 European nations and also includes the U.S., Canada and Japan, is the entity drafting the treaty.

Law enforcement in the Netherlands will have broader authority after the amendments to the law are accepted. Internet service providers (ISPs) will have to save customers’ Internet traffic data once requested by the police, the Dutch Justice minister said in a letter to Parliament. A request will have to be based on suspicion.

Companies are also affected. The new law will force network managers to cooperate with the authorities in tapping network traffic. Companies will not be asked to make their networks ready for tapping, which ISPs are required to do.

Action against attacks on computer networks is also taken. It will become illegal to sell passwords and access codes and providing tools clearly meant to damage networks. Such tools would be computer viruses or hacking programs.

The Netherlands is also strengthening its rules against child pornography, to reflect international standards. So-called virtual child pornography, for which children haven’t actually been physically abused, will be outlawed. Virtual child pornography is created with image editing software.

Mail bombing, where the intention is to shut down a mail server by overloading it with thousands of e-mails, will also be a crime.

The Council of Europe applauds the Dutch action. “The Netherlands has taken a very strong leadership,” Csonka said. “A number of countries will have to change their laws. We have no specific details because it is too early, the draft is still being discussed.”

Human rights and information freedom organizations from several countries recently attacked the draft.

In an open letter to the Council of Europe the groups said the draft treaty “is contrary to well-established norms for the protection of the individual, that it improperly extends the police authority of national governments, that it will undermine the development of network security techniques, and that it will reduce government accountability in future law enforcement conduct.”

Csonka said the drafting committee will conclude its work in December. The 582 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council will then discuss the draft in March. This will produce an opinion on the draft. A steering committee will look at the opinion in June and most likely amend the draft, Csonka said. The Committee of Ministers will discuss the new draft. After approval the process of signing and ratification can start. This won’t be until September 2001.

Author: Joris Evers

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