Vienna (Austria), 19 December 2019 - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) concluded the first phase of a global initiative on strengthening officials' capacity in obtaining and preserving electronic evidence with a regional workshop held from 17 to 18 December in Vienna.
The workshop focused on how to obtain essential electronic evidence from internet service providers (ISPs) and was organized in collaboration with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The event convened prosecutors and representatives of national Central Authorities from across Central Asia, introducing them to the use of the Practical Guide for Requesting Electronic Evidence Across Borders.
The exponential growth of the internet and social media is a double-edged sword. While effortless internet access and the availability of digital tools and software have benefited the now 4.4 billion users worldwide, it has also amplified the ease at which crime is being planned, organized and executed, regardless of a perpetrator's location.
To make matters worse, the use of traditional techniques for gathering evidence, and the evidence itself, are often not adequate to bring criminals to justice. Rather, it is the electronic evidence such as location data, social media postings and text and email messages that is often indispensable to initiate investigations and prosecute offenders.
To ensure that criminal justice officials remain equipped with the knowledge and skills to tackle these challenges, UNODC began implementing a global initiative in partnership with the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) to strengthen the capacity of Central Authorities, investigators and prosecutors to preserve and gather electronic evidence.
"Technological advancement and globalization have meant that essential electronic evidence is very often stored in another jurisdiction" said Masood Karimipour, Chief of the UNODC Terrorism Prevention Branch. "It is therefore imperative that UNODC supports practitioners, through programmes such as this Global Initiative, to meet their duties in staying up-to-date with the latest tools and techniques for obtaining this evidence and ensuring suspects are brought to justice."
Prior to the workshop, the guide was generously translated into Russian by OSCE to ensure practitioners remain equipped "with the necessary methods and tools to access the critical electronic evidence needed to prevent, investigate and bring to justice those who seek to undermine international human rights and freedoms" said Fejzo Numanaj, Acting Head of the Action Against Terrorism Unit of the OSCE Transnational Threats Department.
The regional workshop in Vienna focused on the use of the Practical Guide in making requests for preservation, voluntary disclosure, emergency disclosure and mutual legal assistance in terrorist and organized crime cases involving electronic evidence.
The skills gained in these areas were bolstered by specialized presentations delivered by officials of the Department of Justice Canada, Europol, INTERPOL and the United States Department of Justice, as well as experts representing large service providers such as Apple, the European Internet Service Providers Association (EuroISPA) and Facebook, represented by Vikram Langeh, Head of Trust and Safety for South and Central Asia.
Maximilian Schubert, President of EuroISPA, highlighted how events of this nature are essential in helping criminal justice officials to understand that "[i]n almost all cases a 'no' from an ISP does not mean I do not want to help you, but, no I am not able to help you due to technical aspects or legal requirements".
With the conclusion of this phase of the project, UNODC is actively planning the second phase, with exciting initiatives designed to ensure Member States continue to develop the essential skills in handling critical electronic evidence and utilizing it effectively to bring those who seek to undermine the collective values of Member States and the United Nations to justice.