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The Netherlands: Child pornography on the internet

Publish Date: 04 Dec 2003

- Nine arrests at two big raids
- Police struck in more than thirty buildings in the past few days.
- Porn material has been seized; the organization of sex travels has been

A stream of pictures of child pornography circulates on the internet. Some images are old, but with surveyances on the internet the Public Prosecutor has found an increase of recent images of child pornography. Two big Dutch child pornography investigations, that led to arrests this Saturday and Tuesday, will probably produce more new material.

A police force consisting of two hundred persons raided eighteen buildings in fifteen villages and cities in the Netherlands thisSaturday. Seven men, ages thirty to seventy-four, were arrested. The Public Prosecutor of Arnhem suspects them of membership of a criminal organization with the purpose of sexual offenses.

The investigation is, besides the found mass of child pornography, into the organization of sex travels, which arranges sexual contacts with minors for travelers. The travels were to Tunisia, Rumania and the Czech Republic.

For another investigation police team searched sixteen houses and arrested two men this Tuesday. Led by the national office of the public prosecutor, 28 computers were confiscated, 26 persons were considered suspects, ten of whom were in the United States. One of the arrested Dutch men possessed 47 thousand pictures and 1587 movies probably with child pornography.

There have been investigations that turned out 180 thousand pictures. The ease of digital reproduction is a factor.

Investigations into child pornography often have an international nature. In the last mentioned investigation internet users flash around the world assisted by the so called peer-to-peer program of Kazaa, an easy to use computer program to exchange information.

But sometimes in reality things turn out to be less international than suspected. Late september it emerged that twenty investigators mostly from police forces from the South of the Netherlands to have hunted down one single Amsterdam citizen.

Initially they thought to have stepped on the trail of a widespread child pornography network. It led to community service for the suspect. In Delft as well the scheme turned out to be hardly international. November 24 a music teacher was arrested, suspected of possession and proliferation of child pornography.

One problem with international tracing of child pornography are the often huge differences in national legislation, according to Europol. The police service that expected to coordinate the European investigations, urge for harmonization.

It is also the territory of gigantic judicial problems. When someone from the Netherlands logs on with a provider in the United States, and offers child pornography via a computer in Italy, where then has the offense been committed? In practice the police choose the physical location of the offender.


'Educational' also punishable

Laws against child pornography have been sharpened. The age has gone up
from sixteen to eighteen. Child pornography created by computer
technology ('virtual pornography') has become liable to punishment.

Possession of child pornography for scientific, educational or
therapeutic purposes is also no longer exempt of punishment.

Further, Dutch law has been declared applicable to those Dutch citizens
who are guilty of sexual offenses with minors outside of the
Netherlands. This goes as well for the non-Dutch citizen who has a
permanent address in the Netherlands, even when he acquired it after

The public prosecutor assigns high priority to investigation when
victims are pre-pubescent (fifteen years or younger), or when violence
or large scale circulation is involved.

When children from the ages of fifteen to eighteen are involved, most
attention will be paid to the commercially produced pornography.

Marc van den Eerenbeemt
4 December 2003
(translation S. Dallali)