Forty-one countries stretching from Iceland to the former Soviet republic of Georgia could be close to approving a treaty that would fight cyber crime.
A committee of the 41-member Council of Europe proposed a treaty at a meeting in October. The council's Assembly will debate the issue in January, paving the way for the signing of a treaty next year, an official at the Brussels office of the Council said.
The committee outlined concerns about the risk that "computer networks and electronic information may also be used for committing criminal offenses, and that evidence relating to such offenses may be stored and transferred by these networks," the committee said. It called for "increased, rapid and well-functioning international cooperation" to fight such crimes.
"One topic this treaty might address is the question of extradition," said a Brussels lawyer, who requested anonymity and is involved in the matter. "If an Italian hacker is caught hacking into a German PC it would be hard under current laws for Germany to extradite him to stand trial in Germany," he said. "A Council of Europe treaty would make it easier to do this."
Some members of the Council of Europe, including Italy and the Netherlands, automatically adopt Council treaties once they are passed. Others would be obliged to pass their own legislation to conform with the treaty. The treaty would be more useful for fighting cyber crime in less developed countries, the lawyer said, as most western European countries have such laws in place.
The Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, France, can be reached at +33 388 412000 or http://www.coe.int/.