A shield for children from sexual predators

New laws are being considered that would create a specific offence of possession of child pornography and set up a sex offenders' register.

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ABU DHABI // New laws to protect children would create a specific offence of possession of child pornography and set up a sex offenders' register, a senior official from the Ministry of Interior said yesterday. Major Gen Nasser al Naimi, the secretary general of the office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior, said that under a law being considered by the ministry, a child protection centre would deal with all cases involving the sexual abuse of children.

The register would be used to keep tabs on convicted paedophiles after their release from jail. Although cases would be decided individually, those convicted of crimes against children could be banned from living near schools or playgrounds. Also, offenders would have to notify the police before moving to a new area or country so that the authorities there could be informed of the offenders' history.

The law would deprive offenders of any chance of keeping their past crimes hidden: offences would be publicised and the police could track offenders. The UAE currently has no specific laws dealing with child sexual abuse; offences are dealt with under existing laws on pornography and sex crimes. A Ministry of Interior official said the new laws could have prevented the death of Moosa Mukhtiar Ahmed, the four-year-old boy who was sexually assaulted and murdered in a mosque in Dubai in November.

Major Faisal al Shammari, the Ministry of Interior's co-ordination officer and media representative in the virtual global task force, an international child pornography monitoring system, said the 30-year-old Emirati man convincted of Moosa's killing had a previous record of sex offences. Under the planned law, his presence would have been made known to the police and the public in Moosa's neighbourhood.

"It was this man's third strike," said Major al Shammari, "so if there were a sex offenders' register people would have known about him and they would have been careful." As part of its membership in the virtual global task force, police are installing an electronic tracking system that links them to child predator cases worldwide. Once the system is in place, the police will be able to connect the internet protocol addresses of known users of child pornography to those of anyone with whom he or she has been in contact.

It represents a powerful new tool for law enforcement agencies worldwide, allowing them to build a global picture of the child pornography trading network. The network will also help track victims and stop their abuse, wherever in the world they are. Major al Shammari said the internet allows police to have "worldwide access" once they "update their investigation methods". The ministry will hold a forum in the capital on Wednesday on the protection of women and children. The ministry will discuss the planned law with international experts.