On 13 January 2022, the fourth meeting of the International Police Club on the topic ‘HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE DIGITAL AGE’ was held at the Moscow City Golf Club. The choice of the topic meets the demands of today: by the beginning of 2022, experts around the world note the trends of expanding the sphere of influence of virtual reality, growing complexity of digital tools and the adaptation of traditional legal systems to it. The impact of the digital age’s results on the concept of human and civil rights and freedoms, as well as changes in methods and tactics of law enforcement, are increasingly becoming the subject of research and discussion.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia, Investigative Committee (IC) of Russia, Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia, Presidential Administration of Russia, Accounts Chamber, Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia, Sberbank, Presidents of the International Police Association Russian Section (IPA RS) regional offices, representatives of public organisations, IPA RS partners and members, as well as police attachés working at embassies in Moscow from Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Armenia, Belarus etc. More than 100 people joined the conference online, among them Russian and foreign guests from Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Israel and other countries, as well as Academies of the Russian IC and police colleges of the All-Russian Police Association in Saint Petersburg, Anapa, Dagestan, Perm and other Russian cities.

Welcoming speeches were made by: Chairman of the Association of Lawyers of Russia, Chairman of the IPA RS Supervisory Board, Colonel General Sergey Stepashin, President of the Club of Military Leaders of the Russian Federation, Chairman of the IPA RS Expert Council, Army General Anatoly Kulikov, former Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation and Secretary of Security Council of the Russian Federation, Colonel General Vladimir Rushailo, former Director of the Federal Protective Service (FSO) and Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia, Army General Mikhail Barsukov.

The meeting was opened and moderated by President of the International Police Association Russian Section, Lieutenant General Yury Zhdanov. In his opening speech, he addressed the phenomenon of ‘digital hatred’ in Internet discourse, as well as the reaction of German legislators regarding the change in the corpus delicti ‘insult’ (§185 StGB ‘Beleidigung’). According to the IPA RS President, ‘the growth of hatred and insults on the Internet has radically transformed the scientific and criminal-political discussion regarding the responsibility for insults.’ The hatred spread on the web has its own specific features. ‘Public defamatory statements on the Internet represent a particularly serious violation of the legal interests of an affected individual. They can be viewed by a large number of people, including employers, friends and family members. They often cannot be deleted or can but only with great effort,’ emphasised Yury Zhdanov. Moreover, social platforms are in continuous dynamics; a new space is being created for cyberattacks on individuals or certain social groups. Harassment and humiliation, degradation of the individual dignity may subsequently provoke ‘storms of hatred’ from other Internet users or move from virtual to physical reality if the victim’s personal data gets into the network. In addition, as the moderator noted, ‘digital hatred affects not only the legal interests of the addressee but also poses a threat to the free and open exchange of opinions.’ This issue has made changes to the concept of ‘insult’ in the criminal legislation of Germany. The very ‘basis’ of the corpus delicti has been rethought. The ‘subject of protection’ has become accepted as ‘no longer just individual dignity as opposed to freedom of speech but freedom of speech itself and the protection of democratic institutions.’ Such an interpretation may become promising in the realities of Russian legislation.

High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation Tatiana Moskalkova spoke on the topic: ‘Human rights in the digital age on the example of Russia.’ Her report contained statistical data reflecting the subject of citizens’ appeals to the Commissioner’s office in connection with the violation of their rights through digital and Internet technologies. The main problem faced by Russians was the protection of personal data. The second group in terms of the number of appeals was the group of citizens who suffered from cybercrime. Other relevant topics for the applicants were related to Internet access, as well as harassment, threats, defamation and other forms of degradation or compromise of human dignity. In addition, Tatiana Moskalkova highlighted that the introduction of electronic document management can be considered a positive innovation as it may speed up legal procedures and be effectively used in penitentiary institutions. However, detailed elaboration and strict maintenance of the constitutional provisions regulating the digital sphere are necessary in order to achieve full protection of citizens’ rights and freedoms, as well as promotion of public security.

Plenipotentiary of the President of the Russian Federation in the State Duma Harry Minh spoke on pros and cons of digitalisation of Russian citizens’ lives.

The experts of the Council of Europe, Senior Lawyer at the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights Vasily Lukashevich and Head of Digital Development Unit, Secretary to the CAI at the Council of Europe Kristian Bartholin spoke on the topics: ‘Digital rights – new human rights’ and ‘Human rights issues and Artificial Intelligence’ (online); Chief Superintendent, Head of Operational Cyber Department in Israeli National Police, Lieutenant Colonel Yaniv Azani spoke on the specific characteristics of the fight against cybercrime on the example of Israel (online), as well as Business Partner for Cybersecurity of the SberBank of Russia Ecosystem Cybersecurity Alexey Volkov spoke on the topic: ‘The balance of business and citizens’ interests while processing their personal data in the age of digitalisation.’ In his report, Alexey Volkov said that, first of all, the ‘fear factor’ of SberBank customers was the preservation of the confidentiality of personal data and privacy since ‘people do not fully understand what data the bank collects, who has access to it and what happens to this data.’ Such fears and distrust arise because the public does not get enough information. Unfortunately, statistics show that data leakage from institutions and corporations is not a myth. However, such cases can be effectively dealt with. In particular, the leaders in the information security system development are the SberBank specialists.

At the end of the Police Club meeting’s official part, a presentation of the book ‘Operational and investigative activities in the digital world’ was held. The book was presented by its editor-in-chief, Adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Russia, Doctor of Law, Honoured Lawyer of Russia, Major General Vladimir Ovchinsky. The work is an interdepartmental collection of articles that covers the most pressing issues of law enforcement practices in the field of cybercrime.

For the success in the IPA Russian Section activities, Chairman of the Association of Lawyers of Russia (ALR) Sergey Stepashin presented certificates of honour to: President of the Russian Section Yury Zhdanov, Adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Ovchinsky, member of the IPA RS Supervisory Board Viktor Kiryanov, Vice-President of the IPA RS Alexander Bykodir, President of the IPA RS Regional Office in Kaliningrad Oleg Ogorodov, President of the IPA RS Regional Office in Lipetsk Vitaly Ivanov, President of the IPA RS Regional Office in North Ossetia Marik Leikin.

The evening ended with a gala dinner, where a concert was performed by leading singers of the Russian National Guard Academic Ensemble conducted by People’s Artist of Russia, Major General of Internal Service Viktor Eliseev, Honoured Artist of North Ossetia, saxophonist Andrey Klinchaev, as well as the musical collective of the IPA RS ‘Gorodovoy.’

For reference: The International Police Club was established in 2018 on the initiative of the International Police Association Russian Section, which was headed by Lieutenant General Yury Zhdanov in September 2018.