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Experts call for action against child porn

The Internet has become the main distribution channel for child pornography

(swissinfo.ch)

International experts meeting in Switzerland have called for a concerted international campaign to tackle child pornography.

The call came at a two-day meeting in Balsthal, Solothurn, where experts from Switzerland, France, Britain, Ireland, Germany, Georgia and Sweden are meeting to discuss the legal and technical hurdles to combating child pornography on the Internet.

The conference, organised by ECPAT, which campaigns for the prevention of commercial sexual exploitation of children, will draw on the experiences of police, psychologists, lawyers and others involved in tracking, prosecuting and dealing with paedophilia and child pornography.

In her opening speech, the secretary general of ECPAT, Katrin Hartmann, pointed out that child pornography had increased significantly since the arrival of the Internet.

She said it was high time for Switzerland to step up its battle against child pornography on the web, pointing to an American study which found that 35 per cent of known child pornographers are currently involved in cases of sexually abusing children.

According to Hartmann. the two priorities for the authorities are tracking down offenders and reducing the accessibility of child porn through websites, picture exchanges and the distribution of pornographic material.

Prosecuting pornographers

Prosecuting child pornographers has proved difficult in the past. The organisers say that Switzerland's first attempts to bring such people to book threw up a catalogue of legal and technical hurdles, which now need to be addressed.

In Switzerland, the prosecution of offenders is a cantonal responsibility but there are moves to centralise the tracking of "cyber criminals".

In 1999 the federal authorities set up a special unit that is set to become a national coordination centre at the beginning of next year. It is expected to seek out and identify criminal acts on the Internet, as well as coordinate the flow of information between the cantons.

Ruth Gisi, councillor of the canton of Solothurn, said her canton was happy to stage the conference, but she lamented the fact that such a meeting was necessary.

Taboo

She said the cantons and the federal government had done much to combat child pornography, but she pointed out that the issue was still taboo in Switzerland.

Further discussions will focus on technical requirements, investigation techniques, production of pornographic images and legal issues.

The experts will also discuss the effects on the victims and western society's response to the problem.

The conference ends on Friday and delegates are expected to adopt a resolution on future strategies for international cooperation.

swissinfo with agencies


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