Morocco: Countering online child sexual exploitation

Rabat, Morocco - 20 March 2022

Fast-paced Technological innovation and widespread accessibility of information and communication technology (ICTs) have transformed societies around the world. Children, in particular, have unprecedented access to computers and mobile technologies and have in recent decades tended to adopt these from an early age, resulting in ICTs becoming thoroughly embedded in their lives. Although the exploitation of children is not a new phenomenon, the digital age has exacerbated the problem and created more vulnerability to children. Online child sexual abuse and online child sexual exploitation involve the use of information and communication technology as a means to sexually abuse and/or sexually exploit children. From 14th to 18th March, Moroccan judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers participated in a five-day symposium on countering online child sexual exploitation.

This event was organized by the UNODC Global Program on Cybercrime in West Africa and the U.S. FBI in Rabat, with support from the UK NCA Border Force. The symposium took place in Morocco, with a specific focus on increasing the capacities of Moroccan law enforcement, prosecutors and judges in the field of countering online child sexual exploitation, with a victim-centered approach. 

The participants to the conference are all part of a Child Sexual Exploitation Working Group that was established by the U.S. FBI, UK NCA, and Moroccan criminal justice authorities to increase and improve coordination among national and international actors in stopping online child sexual abuse.

The symposium was opened by Mr. David Greene, Charge d’Affaires ad interim of the Embassy of the United States of America to Morocco, Her Majesty’s Ambassador Simon MARTIN, Directeur Centrale de la Police Judicaire MGR Mouhcine BOUKHABZA, Directeur Centrale de la Police Judicaire Mohammed DKHISSI, Chef du Pôle des affaires judiciaires Latifa TAOUFIK, Présidence du Ministère Public Sanaa KAMIL, and UNODC Head of Office in Morocco Siham AL FIGUIGUI.

During the week, the event included presentations from seasoned investigators and prosecutors from the FBI, DHS, the UK NCA, and UNODC, as well as Moroccan criminal justice actors, who discussed tools and techniques for prosecuting online child sexual abuse. In addition, the symposium also included participation by NGOs, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Child Rescue Coalition, and private industry, such as Meta, who explained tools and information that their organizations obtain and can provide to assist in these prosecutions. In addition, United States Federal Magistrate Judges Nancy Joseph and Stacie Beckerman joined to discuss their experiences as judges handling these types of cases, and how to evaluate certain digital evidence.

“It takes a network to defeat a network, which is why UNODC if very pleased to support Moroccan authorities, along with our partners from the USA, UK, and our colleagues at UNODC in West Africa, in fighting this form of cybercrime,” said the Regional Representative of the UNODC Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa (ROMENA), Ms. Cristina Albertin.

UNODC’s Global Program on Cybercrime in West Africa delivers trainings and capacity building for criminal justice actors on the topics of cybercrime, cyber-enabled crime, and digital evidence throughout Africa. Carmen Corbin, from UNODC’s Global Program on Cybercrime, explains that, “as a former cybercrime prosecutor, I understand the complexity of adjudicating these cases, and only through this type of collaboration can we begin to truly stop these online crimes against children.” The event was funded by the USA/INL.