As part of the fight against pan-European paedophile rings, police in Geneva have allowed a dozen Swiss and French families to view a notorious CD-Rom containing 8,700 pornographic images in the hope that they will be able to identify their children.This content was published on July 17, 2000 - 18:56
"It's a unique step," cantonal police spokesman Jacques Volery told swissinfo. "We hope other police forces follow suit."
Following the gruelling 13-hour session, a number of the relatives positively identified members of their family. Police said that on a number of occasions parents had to leave the viewing room at Geneva's central police station because the ordeal was simply too much for them.
"There were moments when it was very painful for them, and that's why we provided a psychological team - so that these people could talk to someone straight away," Volery said.
The viewing was followed by a debriefing with two psychologists. The aim was to reduce the risk of the parents suffering post-traumatic stress.
The CD-rom, which contains images of children as young as two, belonged to the notorious German paedophile, Gerry Ulrich. It was passed on to police in the Netherlands by the International Committee for the Dignity of the Child at the end of 1998.
The Dutch police have since distributed it to police forces throughout Europe. Geneva got its copy in March this year, and news of its arrival prompted a local woman to visit the police station.
"A lady from Geneva turned up and asked to see some of the photos," Volery said. "After seeing the pictures, she said she had recognised the children of families she knew living mainly in France."
Having taken precautionary measures to ensure that no paedophiles managed to get in, the police allowed those families - three from Switzerland and nine from France - to view the CD-Rom last Friday. It was the first opportunity any of them have had to see for themselves if their loved ones were on it.
Many have been critical of the approach taken by the French authorities. One woman who said images of her seven-year-old son were on the CD-Rom believes the French have tried to cover up the scale of paedophile crime.
"They want the whole story hushed up. In France, they claim there isn't a network of paedophiles," she was quoted by the Geneva press as saying.
"We've written to (president) Jacques Chirac, (prime minister) Lionel Jospin and (justice minister) Elisabeth Guigou. All we've received are ambiguous replies," said another.
The identity of only a handful of these children is known. But with a positive identification, it is hoped that action can be taken to bring the abusers to justice.
"At the moment, we don't know where these photos were taken, but it was probably in Europe. For now, what we can say is that several families have recognised their children or grandchildren on this CD-Rom and that a report by the Geneva police will be sent to the prosecutor general, Bernard Bertossa, so that he can make sure that the investigation continues in France," Volery said.
by Roy Probert
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