SLinT believes that the Cyber Crimes Act in its current state has some reasonable provisions that are needed to decrease cybercrimes in Sierra Leone. After our preliminary, professional and neutral review of the bill, we found that the legislation has significant loopholes, cannot be effectively implemented, and represents a threat to data protection, citizens' privacy, human rights, and freedom of expression.
The current bill will make it very easy for police officers, the Minister, Judges, and Authorized persons to misuse their office powers to violate data protection laws, privacy, and Sierra Leonean citizens' human rights. The bill extends the offence of criminal responsibility to numerous acts that may have been committed through a computer system without providing the safeguards to guarantee civil liberties and fair adjudication of matters. It concentrates investigative and enforcement powers with undefined fines and penalties to the Minister and a few others, undermining this bill's intent as a new risk to the outcomes of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report.
Computer Security or security in cyberspace is not as simple as catching the cybercriminal. It is about preventing the cybercriminal from committing cybercrimes such as stealing or changing valuable national security data. If the cybercriminal is allowed to break into a secured system, existing standards, guidelines, principles, tools, and processes are used to investigate the crime. This Cyber Crimes bill is the perfect legislation to investigate and convict the cybercriminal. Governments and companies typically spend large sums of money on preventing cybercrimes from happening by developing and enacting standards, policies, and guidelines and training employees and citizens on secure computer systems.
SLinT is recommending that this bill is put on hold for further inclusive review with all relevant stakeholders. While at the same time, we implement the data protection and privacy legislation as a precursor to enacting this bill, to guarantee due process for all citizens irrespective of background, government, or favours as a matter of urgency. The view of amending the bill after passing it now on its current fast-paced trajectory to enactment seems wrong in plain sight of these concerns.