Mr. Chairman, in July of this year, I was privileged to lead the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Annual Session in Brussels. During the Brussels meeting, I was able to advance an initiative proposed by Commission Co-Chair Congressman Chris Smith aimed at combating the insidious problem of child pornography. I am pleased to report that our resolution was unanimously approved by parliamentarians from the 56 OSCE countries. Research makes clear that child pornography is an issue throughout the OSCE region and a common threat to the wellbeing of future generations of young people.
The issue of child pornography and sexual exploitation is a concern that deserves priority consideration by the OSCE and the participating States. I raised this issue with the OSCE Chair-in-Office, the Belgian Foreign Minister, when he testified before our Commission. While at the Parliamentary Assembly meeting in July, I participated in a special session focused on the subject of today’s hearing. Parliamentarians from other OSCE countries share our concern, and I look forward to their continued support and cooperative initiatives prior to and after the Brussels OSCE Ministerial.
In a related initiative, the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) has conducted important research regarding this issue. The Center surveyed 184 Interpol member countries, including the OSCE participating States. Their recently released study reveals significant gaps in the legal framework that restricts the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies to combat international child pornography networks operating across borders, principally via the Internet. A survey of the 56 OSCE member countries finds that:
6 countries lack any laws criminalizing any aspect of child pornography;
32 countries lack any legal definition of child pornography;
16 countries have failed to make the possession of child pornography a crime;
20 countries lack laws criminalizing the electronic distribution of child pornography via the Internet; and
50 countries do not require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to report suspected child pornography to law enforcement.
The numbers relating to all Interpol member countries are even higher regarding those countries that do not have laws criminalizing child pornography.
Of the OSCE countries, only Belgium, France, and the United States have enacted comprehensive laws combating child pornography. I commend the fact that we have laws in the U.S., but we have a long way to go on this issue since much of the demand for child pornography originates in our country. As Ernie Allen, ICMEC President and CEO, who participated in the Brussels event and is with us again this afternoon, has observed, “We know that many world leaders do not yet recognize that child pornography has become a multi-billion dollar industry and that the world’s children are paying the price.”
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this very important hearing on protecting children around the world. I look forward to learning from the distinguished panelists who are with us today. Thank you.