WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new study of child pornography laws in 184 Interpol member countries around the world has produced alarming results: more than half of these countries (95) have no laws addressing child pornography and in many other countries, the existing laws are inadequate.
“Currently, the laws around the world are alarmingly insufficient to fight this epidemic,” said Baron Daniel Cardon de Lecture, Chairman of the Board of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC). “This is simply not acceptable. It is time for the leaders of every country to act. Our commitment is to work with them to bring about real change and eradicate this terrible problem.”
The International Centre in collaboration with Interpol, the world’s preeminent law enforcement organization, released the study today in Washington, DC. The study found that in 138 countries, the possession of child pornography is not a crime. In 122 countries, there is no law which specifically addresses the distribution of child pornography via computer and the Internet.
“People need to understand that each and every time an image of a child being sexually assaulted is traded, printed, or downloaded, the child depicted in the photo is re-victimized,” said Ernie Allen, ICMEC president and CEO. “The physical and psychological harm to these children is incalculable. Those who possess and distribute these images are as complicit as those who manufacture them.”
Surprisingly, just 5 of the countries reviewed have laws considered comprehensive enough to make a significant impact on the crime. They are: Australia, Belgium, France, South Africa, and the United States.
The laws of each country were examined based on five criteria:
- Are there existing laws criminalizing child pornography?
- Does existing law include a legal definition of child pornography?
- Is the possession of child pornography a crime?
- Is the distribution of child pornography via computer and the Internet a crime?
- Are Internet Service Providers (ISPs) required to report suspected child pornography to law enforcement?
Only 22 countries reviewed were in substantial compliance with the recommended criteria set by ICMEC. They include, by region: Asia & the Pacific – Hong Kong,
New Zealand and Tonga; Europe & Eurasia – Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovak Republic, Switzerland and the United Kingdom; North America – Canada;Latin America & the Caribbean – Honduras, Panama and Peru; and Middle East & North Africa – Israel.
Allen noted, “We shared advance copies of this research with every country in order to ensure that our analysis was accurate. Our next step is to share model legislation with countries that have not yet enacted laws. We know that many world leaders do not yet recognize that child pornography has become a multi-billion dollar industry and that the world’s children are paying the price.”
The exact scope of the problem of child pornography is difficult to determine. Yet, it is clear that the problem has exploded with the advent of the Internet. A 2002 report by ECPAT International and the Bangkok Post estimated that 100,000 child pornography web sites existed in 2001. In 2003, the National Criminal Intelligence Service in the U.K. estimated that child pornography web sites had doubled worldwide. The U.S.-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children received an increase of reports to its CyberTipline from more than 24,400 in 2001 to more than 340,000 by the beginning of 2006.
In an effort to address the insidious threat of sex crimes against children, ICMEC and Interpol are also working together to create an Internet-based International Resource Centre (IRC) on child pornography which will be launched in the Fall of 2006. The site will provide both public information and private investigative resources for law enforcement. Since 2003, the two organizations have been conducting training to build knowledge and expertise for law enforcement worldwide. Through generous funding from Microsoft, 1,322 law enforcement officials from 89 countries have been trained in seminars held around the world.
“Child exploitation is a serious and devastating worldwide problem,” said Tim Cranton, Director of Internet Safety, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft Corp. “Microsoft is honored to support the International Centre and Interpol as we work together to develop consistent global solutions to help combat child pornography.”
This global study is part of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children’s worldwide campaign to combat child pornography. The campaign was devised in Dublin, Ireland in October 2002 during the Global Forum on Child Pornography. From that conference emerged five main action items dubbed the “The Dublin Plan.”
In 2004, the first phase of the campaign was launched with Microsoft by enhancing the capacity of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute child pornography cases by providing training to law enforcement personnel around the world. Today’s announcement is the second phase of the campaign which is working to ensure consistency of laws between nations and to promote model legislation worldwide.