LYON, France – Decisive action by US Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in sharing seized child sexual abuse images with specialist investigators worldwide via INTERPOL, resulting in the break-up of an international abuse network, has been commended by the head of the world police body as ‘exemplary’ in global law enforcement cooperation.
Just days after officials from HSI added the images of the sexual abuse of an 18-month-old to INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database, a specialist Dutch police officer who is a member of INTERPOL’s Victim Identification Network in the Netherlands, identified a stuffed bunny in the photo as ‘Miffy’, a character in Dutch children’s books.
The toy, in addition to other elements in the image, enabled the KPLD Dutch National Police to identify the Netherlands as the location where the photos of the child sexual abuse had been taken. A public appeal by the Dutch police on national television resulted in the identification and arrest of Robert Mikelsons who has since been sentenced to 18 years for abusing more than 60 children, some just a few months old, in two Amsterdam nurseries and homes where he babysat, saving many infants from further abuse.
Subsequent investigations around the world have so far led to the arrest of nearly 40 sex offenders from every region of the world, many of them abusing multiple victims. To date, the number of children removed from harm as a result of this one operation stands at more than 140.
“That one original decision by the US ICE Homeland Security Investigations officers to add the child sexual abuse images to INTERPOL’s databases and the diligence by the Dutch police has resulted in global consequences, putting these child rapists behind bars and rescuing the victims from future sexual abuse,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble.
“This is a classic example of what can be accomplished when law enforcement consult international databases and use tools and services available via INTERPOL globally,” Mr Noble added.
“The US and Dutch authorities are to be commended for their swift and effective action in this case, which should serve as a model for other countries in the pursuit of transnational criminals involved in all categories of crime.
“This is exactly why we created the INTERPOL International Child Sexual Exploitation database. It is a vital weapon for law enforcement officers in bringing dangerous criminals to justice, and should be the first port of call for any investigation into child sexual abuse,” concluded the INTERPOL Chief.
Managed by INTERPOL’s Crimes Against Children specialist unit at the its headquarters in Lyon, France, the ICSE database, backed by the G8 and funded by the European Commission, is accessible to victim identification specialists through INTERPOL's secure I-24/7 global police communications system, and uses sophisticated image comparison software to make connections between victims and places.
The database contains images relating to nearly 2,500 identified victims of sexual exploitation from 41 countries, and in addition to providing vital assistance in locating offenders, is also an important tool in avoiding duplication of effort by police trying to identify victims who have already been rescued.