This module is a resource for lecturers

Harmonization of laws

The clear majority of countries worldwide have national laws that cover cybercrime or some facets of cybercrime (UNODC, 2015). Cybercrime safe havens are created in countries that do not have cybercrime laws because a person cannot be prosecuted for a cybercrime unless it is considered an illicit activity punishable by law. This was observed in the case of the creator and distributor of the "LOVE BUG" computer virus, a resident of the Philippines, who could not be prosecuted (even though this virus had adverse economic consequences on countries around the world) because the Philippines did not have a cybercrime law at the time of the incident (Maras, 2014). These cybercrime safe havens can also be created if cybercrime laws are not adequately enforced and/or there is divergence between national cybercrime laws (UNODC, 2013, p. 56-60).

The harmonization of substantive provisions of cybercrime laws not only prevents cybercrime safe havens, but also reduces cybercrime penalty safe havens (UNODC, 2013, p. 60-63). These safe havens are created because only those acts that meet the "threshold of seriousness for the crime involved - usually expressed with reference to the possible penalty that the offence may attract" will warrant the investment required for international cooperation between states (UNODC, 2013, p. 61). The harmonization of substantive provisions of cybercrime law thus helps facilitate international cooperation.

The harmonization of procedural provisions of cybercrime laws facilitates, among other things, global evidence collection and sharing through international cooperation (UNODC, 2013, p. 60-63). Comprehensive and precise procedural standards and protocols on digital evidence and forensics (discussed in Cybercrime Module 4 on the Introduction to Digital Forensics, Module 5 on Cybercrime Investigation, and Module 6 on Practical Aspects of Cybercrime Investigations and Digital Forensics), and the harmonization of these standards and protocols could ensure that digital evidence handled in one country would be admissible in another country (or other countries).

National laws contain provisions that facilitate international cooperation (discussed in Cybercrime Module 7 on International Cooperation against Cybercrime). For example, in Jamaica, the Cybercrimes Act of 2015 was implemented to harmonize law and implement many of the substantive and procedural provisions of the Cybercrime Convention. In Nigeria, the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act of 2015, called for the establishment of a Cybercrime Advisory Council to facilitate international cooperation on cybercrime matters. In Qatar, Law No. 14 of 2014 Promulgating the Cybercrime Prevention Law, set investigatory powers, rules of evidence and procedure, international cooperation, mutual legal assistance, extradition, and service provider obligations, in cybercrime matters. The existence of national, regional, and international laws on cybercrime, and the harmonization of laws across states facilitates international cooperation (UNODC, 2013, p. 55). The harmonization and enforcement of national, regional, and international laws also eliminates cybercrime safe havens (Maras, 2016).

Next: International and regional instruments
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