Arrangements have been finalised for members of the East African Community (EAC) to promote the exchange of information between criminal justice and law enforcement counterparts among Member States of the East African Community on issues pertaining to the fight against cybercrime.
Under the arrangement; Uganda Kenya and South Sudan as well as Ethiopia and Somalia formed the Eastern African Cybercrime Criminal Justice Network to create a network of focal points for law enforcement agencies, prosecution services, and central authorities in order to facilitate informal and formal modes of cooperation in criminal matters involving cybercrime and electronic evidence.
The Eastern African Criminal Justice Network on Cybercrime and Electronic Evidence seeks to facilitate and promote formal and informal international cooperation among member states against cybercrime and exchange information on best practices, harmonisation of national laws and technical assistance needs in the field of international cooperation to combat cybercrime.
Roles of network
The network is charged with establishing a database of cybercrime cases and compiles information on patterns and trends of cybercrime in the region; facilitate and coordinate training and capacity building activities for the member states, cooperation on legal issues pertaining to cybercrime, including the use of electronic evidence.
It is envisaged that the network would promote and facilitate any other form of cooperation as may be beneficial to the needs of member states and the functioning of the network itself.
In a joint statement by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Commonwealth Secretariat, to ensure effectiveness of the network as per the terms of references, each member state would nominate a person occupying a particular office in the respective government service, to be the Focal Point entrusted with the task of coordinating national authorities within the member state.
“… the role of the National Focal Points shall include the coordination of the national authorities to exchange experience in international cooperation in criminal matters, involving cybercrime and electronic evidence, sharing information and approaches to obtaining electronic evidence outside of the Eastern Africa region and in particular from global electronic service providers,” reads the statement.
Considering possible mechanisms to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of mutual legal assistance in line with the rule of law, for example through accreditation and training, the focal point person will provide and compile information on national cooperation requirements such as laws and procedures.
The statement indicate that the focal point person will acting as a national forum bringing together law enforcement officials and representatives of Internet service providers for internal coordination in each member state and act as a platform for the coordination and delivery of capacity building for institutions engaged in international and regional cooperation.
Article 9 of the terms of references provides for relations with other regional and global networks.
“… the Network shall establish the necessary mechanisms to encourage contacts, exchange experiences and complement the activities of other regional and inter-regional networks for training and international judicial cooperation, such as the East Africa Police Chiefs Organisation (EAPCO), INTERPOL and any other platform that complements the activities of the Network,” reads the terms.
Composition of the network
Coordination through national focal points, the network facilitate coordination among the authorities from each member state comprising of the office or person designated (by law or administrative order) as the national contact point on issues relating to cybercrime and related matters,
Other offices or person under coordination include law enforcement authorities responsible for the detection and investigation of cybercrime officers from each member state, taking into consideration the existing Interpol group of experts and prosecutorial authorities with functions relating to the prosecution of cybercrime officer from each member state as well as judicial authorities.
The focal person shall coordinate central and competent authorities designated to receive process and facilitate the execution of requests for mutual legal assistance, extradition and other forms of international cooperation officers from each Member State and ministry or government agency responsible for telecommunication matters.
“To ensure the effectiveness of the network, National Focal Point shall be nominated from each member state as a person occupying a particular office in government service who will be entrusted with the task to facilitate coordination between the aforementioned national authorities within the member state,” reads the terms of reference.
Andrew Khaukha, the focal person for Uganda explained that the network will act as a platform for sharing information and approaches to obtaining electronic evidence outside of the Eastern Africa region, in particular from global electronic service providers.
He added that the network will consider possible mechanisms to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of mutual legal assistance in line with the rule of law, for example, through accreditation and training.
“In April, senior government officials and key stakeholders from member states of the East African Community, as well as representatives of relevant organisations will meet in Kampala, to discuss cybersecurity and cybercrime initiatives within the region.
How it started
The initiative started in 2014 at a meeting of senior government officials and key stakeholders from member states of EAC convened by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Commonwealth Secretariat, under the auspices of the Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative (CCI) on Preventing and Combating Cybercrime as a move to strengthen regional cooperation.
Last year, the police set up a working group to fight cybercrime via social media.