Data from the SKY ECC communications app, seized in a French and Dutch-led police operation, cannot be legally used in criminal proceedings, lawyers from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro concluded in a debate in Belgrade.
At the event, on Thursday, headlined “SKY ECC communication as evidence in criminal proceedings“, organised by the Bar Association of Serbia, lawyers and law professors debated whether data from this communication, although useful in criminal proceeding, can be used as legally obtained evidence.
Belgrade University Law Faculty Professor Vanja Bajovic said that besides privacy issues, using Sky ECC communications in criminal proceedings in Serbia could violate the right to a fair trial.
“If the defendant’s right to privacy is violated, if the evidence was obtained through [cracking] Sky, the defendant cannot know the source of the evidence or the way in which the evidence was obtained,“ she said.
Bajovic said information based on Sky ECC could be use as intelligence data, based on which police and prosecutors can later build a case, but not as the evidence itself.
“Failures of the police and prosecutor’s office cannot be ‘washed’ by the destruction of human rights,“ she added.
Miodrag Stojanovic, a lawyer from Bosnia, said the judiciary there has been facing cases related to Sky ECC since November 2022.
According to him, people were arrested, put in custody and indicted based on Sky ECC communications without a court decision on whether thisx was legally obtained evidence or not.
“The question is at what point the judicial community of Bosnia and Herzegovina willl have the strength to weigh its final decision related to the legality of the evidence,“ Stojanovic said,
The legality of obtaining such evidence is contested also in Montenegro.
Bojana Franovic Kovacevic from Montenegro’s Bar Association said that some cases in the Prosecution Office are based only on SKY ECC communications.
“The prosecution in the indictments, instead of dealing with reasonable suspicion and which decisive facts have been established in order to speak of the existence of a criminal offence, deals with analysis of French legislation,“ Franovic Kovacevic said.
When a Franco-Dutch police operation cracked the code to Sky ECC in February 2021, investigators gained access to a treasure trove of real-time evidence against a host of international crime gangs.
In Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, Montenegro and Slovenia, over 100 people have since been arrested and charged as a result of evidence obtained from Sky ECC and passed on by the French and Dutch, for crimes involving drug trafficking, murder and kidnapping.
Experts, however, warn of concerns about the legality of how the data is handed over and stored, and can this data be admissible in courts.
Last week, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has handed down its first verdict based on evidence obtained through Sky ECC and Anom apps.
One of the biggest organised crime trial in Serbia, against Veljko Belivuk, which also largely relies on Sky ECC, started in Belgrade in October 2022.
Source : Balkaninsight