UAE ministry to link ID cards with the internet to crack down on child abusers

Experts say a database of all children will help identify victims of child abuse by comparing photos with online images.

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ABU DHABI // Identifying criminals and victims in child abuse cases will soon be easier with a new security link between Emirates ID cards and websites.

The Ministry of Interior will also work with phone companies to crack down on abusers.

“We have very ambitious projects,” said Lt Col Faisal Al Shimmari, director of the ministry’s child-protection centre. All ID services can help police to identify criminals and victims, he said.

The ministry will start using ID cards more smartly, using them for security purposes and helping them catch abusers or track victims. By linking ID cards with internet service providers, people’s identities will be linked to the websites they visit.

Lt Col Al Shimmari also said tougher laws on child abuse had to be enforced and having all residents in one database would help police.

“There is an easiness with which criminals can use devices and modern technologies to reach children,” he said. “One in five children is subject to such aggression online and this figure shows we have to work on legislation. If people fear punishment, then they might behave themselves.”

Robert Shilling, the head of crimes against children at Interpol, said 93 per cent of all sex crimes in the US and Canada were committed by someone known to the victim.

“A vast majority of people abusing our children are friends, family members, a person in a position of trust and authority,” he said. “So it’s important that we educate our children about safe uses of the internet.”

Christian Berg, the founder of, said a central database that held photos of minors should be implemented in the UAE, thus making victim identification easier.

“A lot of it is already known in the Interpol International Child Sexual Exploitation database where they maintain hundreds of thousands of child abuse images so by collaborating within the country or with Interpol, a lot of this material can be identified. This saves investigators a lot of time that can be used to look at new files.”

Dr Mohammed Al Kamali, director general of the Institute of Training and Judicial Studies in Abu Dhabi, said Arab countries were cracking down on the possession of pornographic material.

“It is something that is widespread,” he said. “In the UAE, we are trying to set severe punishments on the simple possession of pornographic material.”

Lt Col Al Shimmari said the internet posed a danger to children because much of the time, those who would exploit them were outside UAE borders.“We cooperate with a number of international police forces in the US, Holland, Italy, New Zealand, Australia and Korea,” he said.

“But we need to cooperate with telecommunications suppliers and phone companies too.”

He said school visits, campaigns and the media could also be used to educate the public.

“Collaborating with partners like BlackBerry, Microsoft and could be one of the solutions we’re looking at,” he said. “We started looking into videos now. We received a number of inquires for collaboration and none were rejected so having a child-centric approach, whether legislation supports it or not, is important.”

Michele Socco, of the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online and a policy officer at the European Commission’s Directorate-General of Home Affairs, said every country needed a “flawless” criminal justice system.

“Often, criminals exploit legal loopholes like storing their material under jurisdictions where legal frameworks don’t allow for speedy prosecution,” he said. “There is room for improvement and speeding up these procedures. Cooperation with the private sector is paramount.”

Lt Col Al Shimmari said awareness was key in prevention but communication within families was also required.

“There are certain taboo subjects that some families try to avoid including sexual knowledge and openness between family members,” he said. “But that could be a key enabler to building awareness within the child and parental involvement is crucial.”