By Marina Vassiliou
The bilateral agreement between Cyprus and the United States of America on enhancing cooperation in preventing and combating serious crime, which was signed in December 2015, was ratified on 10 March 2017 by Law 5(III)/2017. The agreement sets out a framework for cooperation, principally in the form of sharing of information, in order to prevent, detect, combat and investigate serious crime. The agreement covers only crimes punishable with a deprivation of liberty of more than one year or some more serious penalty, and to ensure compliance with their national laws, both countries agreed to specify particular serious crimes in respect of which they are not obliged to supply personal data.
According to the preamble to the agreement the objective of the parties is to cooperate as partners to prevent and combat serious crime, particularly terrorism, more effectively, while respecting individuals’ fundamental rights and freedoms, especially the right to privacy.
The agreement commits each country to make reference data from its national automated fingerprint identification systems established for the purpose of preventing, detecting, combating and investigating criminal offences available to the other country’s law enforcement authorities, and to allow access to the reference data in the automated fingerprint identification system, so as to enable the other country’s law enforcement authorities to conduct automated queries by comparing fingerprint data. If permissible under both parties’ national law and on the basis of reciprocity, the parties may also allow similar access to any DNA analysis files, with the power to conduct automated queries by comparing DNA profiles for the investigation of serious crime.
Each party may also provide personal data to the other party regarding individuals it believes may have committed or be about to commit terrorist offences.
Recognising the importance of individuals’ privacy, the agreement commits both parties to high standards of data protection and security, and to ensuring the confidentiality of any information they receive.
The agreement reinforces Cyprus’s international network for combating transnational crime and its incorporation into domestic law is a welcome development in this field.
Marina Vassiliou is Advocate/Associate in the Litigation Department at ELIAS NEOCLEOUS & CO LLC www.neo.law