Published On: Mon, Oct 6th, 2014

Identifying and saving victims of child sexual abuse is focus of INTERPOL meeting in Bermuda

Interpol-logo_CIHAMILTON, Bermuda -- Child protection and victim identification specialists from around the world gathered at an INTERPOL conference in Bermuda to exchange best practice and information that could potentially uncover links between investigations of child sexual abuse worldwide.

The five-day (29 September to 3 October) INTERPOL Specialists Group on Crimes Against Children meeting brought together 140 experts from 33 countries and private sector partners to discuss topics including child sex trafficking, Internet-based child sexual exploitation, analysis of abuse material, cyber-bullying and enhancing victim identification efforts, as well as partnerships between law enforcement and the private sector.

The participants voiced their support for INTERPOL’s Baseline project, where the digital signatures of child abuse material are shared with the technology industry to prevent these images from appearing online.

A growing concern examined by the participants is the rise in ‘sextortion’ cases, a type of blackmail where members of organized criminal groups solicit victims to share sexually explicit images of themselves, then the blackmailer threatens to circulate the images online unless the victim pays a large sum of money.

INTERPOL recently coordinated Operation Strikeback, the first large-scale police operation targeting criminal networks involved in sextortion, which resulted in the arrest of 58 individuals, the identification of nearly 200 individuals working for networks in the Philippines, and the seizure of electronic evidence such as mobile phones and laptops.

“There are a number of areas where there is an international component, including Internet crimes of distributing child abuse material, direct contact and abuse of children through social networking sites, travelling sex offenders and child trafficking. This means that law enforcement officers have to act locally, but think globally,” said Bermuda Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva.

To support member countries in identifying the victims of these crimes and locating the perpetrators, the INTERPOL International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database contains images of sexual abuse material relating to numerous unidentified victims that police around the world are hoping to rescue. To date 5,140 victims of sexual abuse have been rescued through use of the ICSE database.

“It is fitting that the theme of this year’s meeting is ‘Protecting children through collaboration’. With the support of ICSE and other INTERPOL global tools and services, we have the opportunity to assist investigators around the world in rescuing these young victims from further abuse and bringing the offenders to justice,” said Robert Shilling, coordinator of operations with INTERPOL’s Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation unit.

The conference, which was opened by Bermuda Governor George Fergusson and Premier and Minister of National Security Michael Dunkley, was preceded by a meeting dedicated to private industry stakeholders who provide technology solutions to combat these types of crimes.

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