Institute of Law Hosts Discussion on Cybercrime Law

On October 18, the Institute of Law at Birzeit University, in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, held a discussion of the recent cybercrime law on the university campus. The legal encounter, titled “The Legal and Technical Aspects of the Presidential Decree Regarding Cyber Crimes.”

The Acting Director of the Institute of Law, Mueen Barghouthi, began the discussion with a talk in which he highlighted the importance of public-sphere discussion of such matters, and noted the urgent need to set up a committee – composed of civil and governmental representatives – to develop and assess the decree in order to maintain a balance between the protection of civil and societal rights, and the needs of the community.

In his opening speech, Head of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Office in the Palestinian Territories, Dr. Marc Frings, noted the widespread attention that the decree generated, citing a number of causes such as the lack of a functioning legislative council and the fact that the decree was not put up for the public discussion of experts and civil society institutions. He added that these causes combined helped to create a gap between policymakers and the Palestinian community.

The Head of the IT Unit in the Institute of Law at Birzeit University, Ahmad Hamo, detailed the technical aspects of the decree. He said, “The computer has grown out of its traditional definition, it now comprises such devices as smartphones, printers, and most tools of communication. These tools, however meritorious they are to us, can be used to commit crimes or can be the scene of a crime.”

Detailing the legal aspects of the decree, the head of the Law Department at Birzeit University, Dr. Mustafa Abdelbaqi, drew the audience’s attention to the shortcomings of the prosecutorial procedure before the signing of the decree. He said, “The prosecution made use of the penal code to prosecute what cybercrimes it applied to and adapted it to fit what it didn’t. There are some cybercrimes, however, that fall just outside of the reach of the penal code, and herein is where the cybercrime law would be of use.”

While the cybercrime law presents a good case for its implementation, Dr. Abdelbaqi continued, it still exhibits a lack of uniformity between its articles and a lack of cohesion between it and the relevant penal laws.  He further added, “The law lacks the basic propositions to criminalize and punish the spread of malware or the theft of passwords, for example. The law also uses vague and ambiguous terminology that is in clear contradiction with the basic principles of the penal code.”