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Minister Hojs: "Child sexual abuse is one of the most serious crimes"

Ministry of the Interior held a virtual ministerial conference on the prevention and investigation of child sexual abuse in the framework of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU. The Minister of the Interior Aleš Hojs, who is currently presiding the EU Home Affairs Council, chaired the ministerial conference.

At the conference, the Ministers of the Interior of the EU member states, the Schengen Associated States, the Western Balkans and the United States of America, and representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament, Europol and Eurojust, adopted a joint statement. "In the statement we emphasised the need for preventive action and awareness-raising and expressed political support for the establishment of adequate tools for detection and investigation of child sexual abuse – one of the most serious crimes, due to the wide-ranging and life-long consequences for its victims," Minister Hojs said.

"As a result of rapid digitalisation and the growing use of the internet, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, the digital aspect of these crimes requires special attention,” Minister Hojs noted, adding that this topic was also listed among the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency in the area of home affairs.

The keynote speech of the first session dedicated to prevention activities and prevention of sexual child abuse was delivered by Marko Puschner, who presented the activities of the Awareness Centre, which raises awareness on the safe and responsible use of the internet. He presented the centre's experience in the field of child sexual abuse through their work with children in schools. In their discussion, the ministers supported joint efforts for continuous cooperation in addressing the challenges of the digital age. "We agreed that international cooperation needs to be strengthened, especially due to the limitless nature of the digital world and its challenges," Minister Hojs summarised.

"Although the prevention of child sexual abuse remains the highest priority, it regrettably keeps occurring, and we must invest a lot of our efforts and attention into the detection and investigation of these crimes," Minister Hojs said after the second session. The technical aspects rendering the prevention of these crimes more challenging, which are linked to the possibilities of anonymousness, encryption and data flow tunnelling, were presented by dr. Žiga Turk, a pioneer in the field of digitalisation and the former Slovenian Minister of Higher Education, Science and Sport.   

Investigators of child sexual abuse encounter many challenges in their investigations, making the use of advanced information technology, including artificial intelligence for the successful recognition of victims and perpetrators a necessity. At the same time, fundamental human rights and liberties must also be safeguarded, the participants agreed.

"The challenges and pitfalls of new technologies require the cooperation of all partners, as well as cooperation from internet service providers, social media platforms and electronic communications providers," Minister Hojs said. In this context, the participants agreed that the added value of the support provided by EU institutions and agencies in the form of joint training sessions and the exchange of expertise and best practices also contributes significantly to the combat against these crimes.