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Joint action to upgrade criminal justice protections for children in Southeast Asia

Phnom Penh (Cambodia), 16 March 2017
- A comprehensive training programme to help strengthen understanding of the essentials of cybercrime investigation, and the technology tools to combat online sexual exploitation of children, has been conducted in Phnom Penh. Through the training, jointly delivered with the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), criminal justice officials were equipped with knowledge and skills for the successful investigation and prosecution of cases of child sexual exploitation, including online child sexual exploitation. The training also focused on enhancing international cooperation between participating justice officials, judges, prosecutors and police from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam.

From the interactive pay-per-view abuse of children via webcams to the trade of child sexual abuse material (child pornography), rapid advances in technology and related infrastructure in the region is facilitating new forms of child abuse. Never in history has one offender been able to access and abuse children in multiple countries in a single day - without leaving home. With technological advancements - and often with conspirators online and on the ground - the offender no longer needs to be in physical contact to sexually abuse a child.

Foreign sex offenders victimizing the children in this region continue to take advantage of legal gaps, policy gaps, criminal justice procedural gaps, and gaps in practitioners' knowledge and integrity to avoid being brought to justice.

"Justice officials must closely follow how criminals are exploiting these gaps and using technology to stay above the law," said Noriko Shibata, UNODC Crime Prevention an Criminal Justice Officer. "How are the offenders sharing information with each other to avoid detection and avoid punishment? How are offenders finding and targeting particular victims? What can be done to inhibit offenders from targeting children in this region? What can be done to reduce victimization at the policy level, at the justice administration level? These are the questions that were the focus of the training programme."

Through rare multi-country training events such as these, international experts share what cybercrime trends to prepare for and how to prevent damage to children across the region. The UNODC-ICMEC training courses encourage practitioners to creatively adapt lessons learned and formulate better borderless cybercrime prevention strategies together.

"Training the National Working Group Members which consists of police, judges, prosecutors, and justice officials will ensure that their newfound knowledge will be disseminated to academies like the Royal Academy for Judicial Profession of Cambodia," said H.E. Chan Sotheavy, Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice of Cambodia. "This training directly responds to our government's policy of protecting the rights of children in Cambodia. The National Working Group needs more cybercrime training to more effectively combat sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism."

"We expect that the UNODC-ICMEC cybercrime training courses will help ASEAN governments creatively adapt lessons learned and formulate better borderless cybercrime prevention strategies", said Ms. Snow White Smelser, UNODC Programme Officer on combating child sex offences.

Mr. Guillermo Galarza, Director, International Law Enforcement Trainings & Technology, ICMEC, also emphasised the importance of the partnership with UNODC. "This is an example of excellent partnership with regional organizations, such as UNODC. We bring together experts from the region to share best practices, challenges, and ways to work with industry to protect children online," he said.

Within the framework on the UNODC Regional Programme for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, UNODC supports Member States to strengthen the capacity of police, prosecutors, judges and justice officials in this region, with a particular focus on legal reform, training and interagency and international cooperation mechanisms on crimes against children.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on preventing child sexual exploitation.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on criminal justice systems.