CSO Faults Cybercrime Bill

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CSO Faults Cybercrime Bill

Lawyer Rashid Dumbuya- CEO of Legal Link

The LEGAL LINK Organization has stated that while they commend the efforts of the Government of Sierra Leone and in particular, the Minister of Information for the leadership shown regarding the repeal of the Criminal Libel law (Part V of the Public Order Act of 1965), it is however perturbed and gravely concerned with a plethora of issues enshrined in the proposed cybercrime bill that is currently before the House of Parliament for enactment.
It defined Cybercrime law as standards of acceptable behaviour for information and communication technology users; that it establishes socio-legal sanctions for cybercrime; protects ICT users, mitigates and/or prevents harm to people, data, systems, services, and infrastructure, in particular; protects human rights; enables the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed online; and facilitates cooperation between countries on Cybercrime matters.
It furthered that the Cybercrime law provides rules of conduct and standards of behaviour for the use of the Internet, computers and related digital technologies as well as prohibiting specific types of cybercrime and punishes real-world (offline) crimes (e.g., fraud, forgery, organized crime, money-laundering, and theft) perpetrated in cyberspace and have been made possible with the advent of the internet and internet-enabled digital technologies.
Raising their concerns the organization maintained that the Cybercrime Bill transforms the Minister of Information and Communications into a Demi – god and Chief Judge of the State.
According to them the Minister of Information and Communications is given excessive, enormous and uncontrolled powers under the Cybercrime Bill.
“He appears to be a demi-god and chief judge under the said law responsible for not only strategic appointments but also punishing offenders of the Cybercrime law after they would have been convicted by the courts,” they pointed out.
Making reference to Section 25 (1) of the Bill for example, the Minister is given powers to prescribe punishments that should be meted out on convicted persons under the Bill by way of regulation underscoring that such is overtly ridiculous to say the least.
Proffering a recommendation, LEGAL LINK stated that the Act must prescribe clear punishments that will be meted out to anyone who contravenes the provisions of the Cybercrime law.
It continued that the power to determine punishment for offenders of the Cybercrime law must be taken away from the Minister.
Another concern raised is that excessive and unlimited powers given to the Police or other authorized persons regarding search and seizure of stored computer data
They said like the Minister of Information and Communications, the Police also enjoy unlimited and excessive powers under this bill.
Giving an example, quoting Section 5 of the said bill, they said the Police or other authorized person is given unrestrained powers to institute search and seizure of computer system, program, data and computer data storage materials through an order of a Judge of the High Court for the purposes of serving as evidence in a criminal investigation or proceedings.
“Under the proposed Bill, it is irrelevant as to whether the seizure of such data, computer system or storage material breach confidentiality rules or not,” they argued adding that once the Police or other authorized person has been able to secure this order from the Court, he will now have the powers to compel any person or entity to produce certain data or information, be it confidential or not.
“Without any iota of doubt, this provision of the Bill has the potential to undermine the right to privacy and confidentiality which often characterizes certain professional people like medical doctors, lawyers, journalists etc compelling them to produce documents that ought to have remained confidential.
“Furthermore, by Section 5(4) of the bill, a police officer or other authorized person in the midst of conducting his search warrant or seizure, may even extend his search for data information to a third party whom he reasonably believes has the data in his possession.
“The Bill does not require the police officer or other authorized person to resort to the Court again for a separate order to extend search warrant and seizure to third parties,” the organization stressed. .
Based on that they maintained that it is a clear lacuna that will definitely create room for endless human rights violations of the individual privacy rights of citizens as the search warrant and seizure might continue unabated.
Making a recommendation the organization said the proposed bill must make it mandatory for an order of the court to be sought first before a search warrant and seizure be extended to third parties and furthermore exceptions should be given to safeguard confidentiality information, data or agreements being seized at will by Police Officers.
Other concerns were raised accompanied by recommendations.
The organization said it is now up to Parliamentarians and ultimately the President of the country to do the needful.
They also maintained that while they commend the move by the Government and in particular, the Minister of Information and Communications to push for the passing of a Cybercrime Act, they are appealing that their advisory opinion piece be given due attention as it does not portend, seek or aim to undermine the passing of such a law in the country.
Rather, according to them, it advocates, promotes and calls for the passing of more measured, human rights – friendly Cybercrime law that addresses legitimate expectations of the people.

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