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07 November 2007

INTERPOL General Assembly endorses use of public appeals to assist in child sex abuse investigations

MARRAKESH – Delegates at INTERPOL’s 76th General Assembly have approved a resolution empowering the organization to publish information to request the public’s assistance in child sex abuse investigations.

The decision follows the success of Operation Vico, in which information provided by members of the public led to the arrest of a suspected paedophile just 10 days after INTERPOL launched its first-ever worldwide appeal for help in identifying a man seen sexually abusing young children in a series of images posted on the Internet.

The resolution will enable the public to assist INTERPOL’s member countries to identify child sex abuse perpetrators or crime scenes. Although photographs featuring victims may also be published, their faces will not be shown.

'Without the tip-offs provided by public sources on three continents, without the media raising awareness, without the increased vigilance of police in our member countries brought on by the higher profile of the case, we could not have identified, located and arrested Vico in such a short time,' said Jean-Michel Louboutin, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services.

'Vico had moved in and out of multiple countries to allegedly abuse victims and escape justice. This decision sends a clear signal to those individuals who believe they can avoid arrest by travelling abroad to commit child sex crimes or that they can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet – the eyes of the world will be looking out for you.'

In passing the resolution delegates emphasised that all avenues of investigation should be exhausted before any public appeal to identify a suspected child abuser is made and that any actions taken by INTERPOL needed to respect the rights of both victims and suspects.

The resolution also recognises that images of child sexual abuse constitute evidence of a crime taking place and without global law enforcement doing everything in its power to identify suspects more children would be open to victimisation.

'The decision to publish pictures of the man in the Vico series was not one which was taken lightly, and while we have a clear mandate from our National Central Bureaus to make such appeals again in the future, each case will be carefully considered before action is taken,' Mr Louboutin said.