Maldives: Roll Out of the UNODC/OSCE

"Train-the-Trainer Module on Requesting Electronic Evidence Across Borders"

Male, Maldives/31 May 2023: The scale of Internet and social media use today is staggering. There are currently 5.18 billion Internet users worldwide, 4.8 billion of these use social media, and social media is growing at a rate of 4.7 new users every single second. This is the most connected we have ever been, and the opportunities for global development, participation and innovation show no sign of slowing.

Alongside this exponential growth, however, countries are still plagued by the all too familiar issue of terrorism. Only now, the scourge that endures worldwide is online, with terrorist groups and their supporters usurping the Internet and information and communication technology (ICT) for illicit purposes, preparing their unlawful activities, recruiting vulnerable individuals, inciting violence, financing their crimes and planning attacks.

But just like in conventional terrorism cases, these online crimes leave behind evidence, now electronic in nature, such as location data, social media posts and email messages. In our digital world, this electronic evidence can show where a crime was committed, disclose incriminating communications, determine the location of offenders or prove the innocence of a suspect. Unlike traditional forms of evidence, however, data with the potential to become electronic evidence is not always readily available. Instead, they are most often held in the servers of service providers, frequently based in other jurisdictions.

The international community has long recognized the threat posed by terrorist crimes that misuse the Internet and ICT, as well as the importance of countries continuing voluntary cooperation with the private sector in the requesting and provision of electronic evidence. Assisting Member States in this regard, UNODC implements the Global Initiative on Handling Electronic Evidence Across Borders (the Global Initiative), which supports the building of national criminal justice capacity in identifying, preserving and acquiring the data needed to investigate terrorism offences, use these as evidence in court, and exchange that evidence between jurisdictions without jeopardizing its admissibility and probative value.

In Maldives, UNODC's assistance is currently channelled through the project “Support to addressing the risk of terrorism and to increasing security in the Maldives,” carried out with funding by the European Union. Activities under the project are designed to strengthen capacities for prosecuting and adjudicating terrorism trials fairly and effectively, including through enhanced capabilities to engage in cross-border cooperation to address these crimes at national and regional level.

Working towards these goals, UNODC delivered a specialized train-the-trainer course on international cooperation in cases involving electronic evidence for trainers of the Judiciary, Maldives Police Service and Prosecutor General’s Office.

The event focused on strengthening the capacity of participating trainers to deliver future courses on requesting and obtaining electronic evidence from foreign jurisdictions and overseas service providers through the use of the Train-the-Trainer Module: Requesting Electronic Evidence Across Borders (the Train-the-Trainer Module), developed by UNODC in collaboration with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) under a previous project also funded by the European Union.

Event sessions followed the Train-the-Trainer Module course template, combining the provision of adult-learning frameworks, tools, techniques and training methodologies, and the enhancement of substantive knowledge on international cooperation in terrorism cases involving electronic evidence.

“Terrorism has no border and it is imperative with international cooperation to prevent it and protect our societies” said Lars Bredal, Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “A special issue of attention is the rise both in numbers and sophistication of cybercrime activities. The European Union is working with these challenges at all levels – at the strategic level with our Indo Pacific Strategy and at the practical level with funding training by UNODC on how to cooperate on cross-border access to electronic evidence, necessary to track down dangerous criminals and terrorists.”

Safeguarding the sustainability of this support, UNODC is now working with the Government of the Republic of Maldives to assess national training needs to identify an action plan for inclusion of the Train-the-Trainer Module moving forward.

The event also marked the official UNODC roll-out of the module, a Global Initiative workstream for which the Office remains ready to receive requests for further courses worldwide.

This article was produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.