Requesting Electronic Evidence across Borders: UNODC Organizes Workshop on Customized Practical Guide for Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan 28 September 2022 –United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), organized a Workshop on Customized Practical Guide for Pakistan on Requesting Electronic Evidence across Borders from 27-28 September 2022. Global Affairs Canada (GAC) provided financial support for the event that was held under the framework of Sub-Programme IV – Preventing and Countering Terrorism.

Pakistan is the first pilot country in Asia to partner with UNODC for customizing the global practical guide on requesting electronic evidence across borders in line with its domestic legal framework and procedures. The workshop brought together 20 officials including 4 female representatives from federal and provincial law enforcement agencies including Counter Terrorism Departments (CTDs), Ministry of Interior (MoI), National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), Counter Terrorism and Cybercrime Wings of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to enhance their understanding of the legal and practical aspects of the investigation of terrorism-related cases involving electronic evidence. The deliberations helped the participants gain the knowledge of necessary tools in handling electronic evidence in terrorism-related cases, along with the methodology and expertise focused on Critical Preservation, Voluntary Disclosure, Emergency Disclosure and Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA).

Addressing the opening session of the workshop, Asim Khan, Director General of the Counter Terrorism Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), informed that the Customized Edition for Pakistan on Practical Guide for Requesting Electronic Evidence from Service Providers was developed by UNODC in collaboration with the MoFA after a rigorous process of consultations. He commended the initiative as a huge success and appreciated the contributions made by UNODC and the Government of Canada.

Muhammad Tahir Rai, National Coordinator of NACTA, in his opening remarks, highlighted that in today’s world criminals are exploiting the internet, social media and messaging apps to advance their agendas. The Practical Guide customized for Pakistan will provide practitioners with necessary methods and skills to access and preserve the critical electronic evidence required to prevent and investigate these offences while bringing those to justice who seek to undermine the rule of law, he added.

Jeremy Milsom, Representative of UNODC Country Office Pakistan and Arianna Lepore, Coordinator of the Global Initiative on Handling Electronic Evidence, Terrorism Prevention Branch, UNODC, underlined the significance of the Guide as an immensely effective resource in assisting investigators and prosecutors to access critical electronic evidence needed to prevent, investigate, prosecute and adjudicate terrorism offences.

The workshop commenced with the session on using internet for Counter Terrorism purposes including latest tools and methods of identifying terrorist content and activities in the online world by Dr. Naveed Ahmed, UNODC Expert. Arianna Lepore, Coordinator of the Global Initiative on Handling Electronic Evidence, Terrorism Prevention Branch, UNODC, conducted an orientation session on Global Initiative on Handling Electronic Evidence and cross-border cooperation in counterterrorism operations. A detailed presentation on the Practical Guide content on data preservation, retention and minimization, service providers’ mapping, and model form of preservation was delivered by Olga Zudova, UNODC Expert, followed by a practical group exercise on sending preservation requests directly to foreign services providers.

During the second day of the Workshop, a session on pre-MLA actions, such as open-source research, direct requests to foreign services providers, police-to-police cooperation; service providers’ mapping and model form for voluntary disclosure was hosted by Olga Zudova, UNODC Expert. The session was followed by a detailed discussion on emergency data disclosure, service providers’ mapping and model form for emergency disclosure. A virtual training session on Law Enforcement Guidelines of foreign services providers was also conducted by the experts from world renowned service providers including Tik Tok and

Towards the end of the workshop, participants shared their experiences and highlighted the challenges they face on daily basis in terms of gathering electronic evidence. Case studies were also discussed to comprehend the complexity of requesting quality electronic evidence leading to successful prosecution and other issues related with the assistance and collaboration. Groupwork activities during the workshop allowed the cohort to identify and share operational level problems and challenges and identify solutions with the expert’s support. The workshop concluded with the closing ceremony and distribution of certificates to the participants. Participants appreciated UNODC’s efforts in organizing the workshop which helped them immensely in understanding the necessary tools in handling electronic evidence in terrorism-related cases.