Protecting victims of child sexual abuse focus of INTERPOL meeting
LYON, France – Online victim identification and child protection specialists from around the world gathered at the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters to exchange information that could potentially identify links between investigations of child sexual abuse worldwide.
The four-day (28-31 October) INTERPOL Specialists Group on Crimes against Children meeting brought together 149 experts from 38 countries, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to share best practices in the fight against child sexual exploitation, the online distribution of abuse images and in victim identification.
Among the topics discussed during the meeting were strategies for preventing abuse, offender behaviour, covert Internet operations, establishing national units dedicated to crimes against children, the role of social media, human trafficking and victim identification tools. With reports showing that more than 70 countries have no legislation defining what is considered as child abuse material, the meeting also included a series of regional workshops and a forum for sharing updates on ongoing cases.
Participants recommended the creation of an international policy regarding criminal background checks for individuals working with children, for example at schools or in nurseries as well as encouraging member countries to use INTERPOL Green Notices for sex offenders. Also discussed was the unsupervised nature and easy access to Internet cafés by children in a number of countries, the need for better understanding of licensing requirements worldwide was also discussed.
Private sector partners such as ZiuZ and Visual Intelligence sponsored the meeting, along with Netclean, BlueBear and Videntifier.
International collaboration through the INTERPOL network has so far led to the identification of nearly 2,000 suspected child abusers throughout the world, including most recently a US school volunteer accused of sexually assaulting an eight-year-old girl.
The 37-year-old suspect was located and arrested just four days after police in Denmark shared a video with their counterparts via INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database as part of efforts to identify the unknown victim. Investigators in Australia added other videos of the same victim, leading to a school in Washington State being identified as the location of the abuse.
“Bringing together experts from around the world for these specialist working group meetings is crucial for sharing information on cases that can generate new leads and result in the identification of sexual predators and their victims,” said Michael Moran, Head of INTERPOL’s Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation unit.
“Another important side to these meetings is to ensure that investigators have the necessary knowledge and skills to fully investigate all aspects of child sexual abuse, to identify the victims as quickly as possible and protect them from future harm. It is important to remember that these are not just images, but evidence of the actual sexual abuse of a child,” concluded Mr Moran.
Administered by INTERPOL’s Crimes Against Children unit, the ICSE database which can be accessed by specialized investigators across the world, contains material relating to thousands victims of sexual exploitation and abuse material relating to numerous unidentified victims police around the world are hoping to rescue.
To further enhance global law enforcement efforts, the INTERPOL Victim Identification Laboratory (ViLab) was launched in 2012. The ViLab is a mobile investigative tool that allows trained users to view child sexual abuse images – which can be sanitized depending on the audience – from ongoing and unsolved investigations, to help identify their locations.