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GCC governments race to create cyber-laws

GCC governments show no signs of pooling their efforts to create region-wide cyber-laws. Instead, officials in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are creating their own versions of justice on the Internet.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE are accelerating efforts to create legislation capable of dealing with Internet-related crimes. However, the three members of the GCC have not announced any collaboration over the development of cyber-laws and seem intent to work in isolation to tackle this emerging threat.

Within days of each other, all three countries said that they have formed committees to evaluate legal processes. In the UAE, Ali Ibrahim Al Hosani, assistant undersecretary for Fatwa, legislation and state affairs in the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs and Awfaq, admitted that existing legislation was not able to cope with cyber crimes. “Due to the rapid rise in electronic crime, particularly through the Internet, there has been a vital need for a separate law to deal with this,” he told a meeting of the Sharjah Consultative Council.

A source close to the Ministerial Legislative Committee, who was quoted in Thursday’s Gulf News, said that 35 new articles were being added to the legislature to deal with Internet crimes. The laws will cover the mechanisms for creating and authenticating legally binding documents and contracts on the Internet; and the subsequent right to legal protection from forged electronic documents. Separate articles in the UAE law will cover Internet crimes like hacking, online theft, copyright violation and invasion of privacy.

The UAE law is expected to outline severe fines for Internet criminals, but will stop short of recommending jail sentences.

In Saudi Arabia, a high-level government committee is being formed to formulate the rules and regulations governing e-commerce. Senior delegates on the fringes of last week’s Saudi International Conference and Exhibition for E-Commerce in Riyadh said that the Ministry of Interior had called for a defense mechanism to be put in place to tackle issues relating to hacking or other Internet crimes. The first step towards the creation of these mechanisms will be government training and awareness programmes designed to develop a deeper understanding of the issues.

Kuwait, which is embarking on a multi-million dollar e-government roll-out later this year, is working on “identifying the requirements” that would form the basis of a legal infrastructure for the Internet.

Fahad Jafar, director general for the Ministry of Interior’s Information and Computer Systems department, is spearheading the Kuwait e-government drive and is contributing technical expertise to the committee formed to examine cyber-laws. He told a CIO (chief information officer) Summit in Dubai yesterday that his Ministry will draw up a proposal on the legislative framework in the near future that will be passed over to parliament.

“Once the proposals are placed before parliament, identification of specific dates to pass legislation on cyber laws will rest with the legislative body,” he added.

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