Byte - EU takes first steps towards Internet human rights convention (February 2005)

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The European Union (EU) has recently formed the Multidisciplinary Ad-Hoc Committee of Experts on the Information Society (CAHSI) to investigate interactions between the Internet and human rights.

CAHSI is comprised of representatives from each of the EU Member States and eleven select Steering Groups, all of whom have the right to vote. It also consists of non-voting representatives from international organisations and European human rights groups.

The purpose of CAHSI is to furnish a ‘draft political statement on the principles and guidelines for ensuring respect for freedom of expression and opinion, for human rights and for the rule of law in the Information Society.’ The aim being to use it as a contribution to the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe and the World Summit on the Information Society (Tunis 2005), and this may be the first step in the formation of a convention on human rights and the Internet.

The terms of reference state that CAHSI’s focus will be on how the Internet and other electronic means of communication may impact human rights in areas such as:

  • The right to freedom of expression and information;
  • The right to respect for private life and correspondence, for example with regard to the protection of ‘traffic data’ and to the problem of ‘spamming’;
  • The prohibition of racist and xenophobic speech, including on the Internet;
  • The right to education, for example e-learning;
  • The prohibition of slavery and forced labour;
  • The prohibition of trafficking in human beings;
  • The right to a fair trial, for example with respect to reporting on criminal proceedings by electronic media;
  • The principle of no punishment without law, for example with regard to new forms of cybercrime and the question of jurisdiction;
  • The importance of encouraging access to and the use by all of new information technologies without discrimination;
  • The protection of property, for example intellectual property in cyberspace;
  • The right to free elections, for example with regard to ‘e-voting’; and
  • The freedom of assembly and association as developing in cyberspace.

CAHSI is the first international body of its kind and this initiative of the EU may provide a platform for further research in this area both within Europe and in the international arena.


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