Pros­e­cu­tion of in­ter­na­tional sex tourists proves cum­ber­some

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Barry Brown

TORONTO — Au­thor­i­ties are re­view­ing ways of pros­e­cut­ing so­called “sex tourists” af­ter the ar­rest in Thai­land of Christo­pher Paul Neil — a 32-year-old Cana­dian who be­came the ob­ject of an in­ter­na­tional man­hunt af­ter Ger­man po­lice au­thor­i­ties de­ci­phered com­puter images of him pur­port­edly sex­u­ally abus­ing chil­dren as young as 6.

Paul Gillespie, who ran the Toronto po­lice’s child-ex­ploita­tion unit un­til 2006, said the prac­tice of trav­el­ing to poverty-stricken coun­tries to pro­cure sex with chil­dren “is one of the most un­der­re­ported and dis­gust­ing crimes.”

“Men, typ­i­cally from West­ern na­tions, reg­u­larly travel to sex-tourism des­ti­na­tions, where they can find vul­ner­a­ble tar­gets,” he said.

Now vice chair­man of the Toronto-based Kids In­ter­net Safety Al­liance, Mr. Gillespie said: “It’s em­bar­rass­ing that we don’t know how big the prob­lem is in Canada be­cause no one has stud­ied it.”

Var­i­ous agen­cies and of­fi­cials agreed there has been no com­pre­hen­sive study of sex tourism any­where, de­spite a grow­ing re­al­iza­tion in the 1990s that the prac­tice amounted to global crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

The United States passed leg­is­la­tion in 1994 and again in 2003 mak­ing it a crime for Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and res­i­dents to ex­ploit un­der­age sex in for­eign coun­tries even if it is not a crime in those coun­tries. In 1997, Canada passed its own law, and now 32 coun­tries have sim­i­lar laws against sex tourism.

In­creas­ingly, des­ti­na­tion coun­tries like Thai­land, Costa Rica, Cam­bo­dia and Brazil are try­ing to stop the crime. So far, 113 of 164 coun­tries have signed an in­ter­na­tional pro­to­col to end hu­man traf­fick­ing.

In 2004, the hu­man­i­tar­ian group World Vi­sion, to­gether with the State De­part­ment, spon­sored a se­ries of bill­board ads in Costa Rica, Thai­land and Cam­bo­dia show­ing the eyes of a child and the cap­tion, “I am not a tourist at­trac­tion. It’s a crime to make me one.”

Yet while Amer­i­cans and Cana- di­ans are es­ti­mated to ac­count for 25 per­cent of all in­ter­na­tional sex tourists, Canada has had only one suc­cess­ful pros­e­cu­tion.

The United States, with ded­i­cated re­sources at the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity and Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, has been some­what more dili­gent.

Ac­cord­ing to Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cer Ja­clyn Lesch, Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agents made 95 ar­rests, achieved 66 in­dict­ments and got 61 con­vic­tions in sex-tourism cases from 1999 to 2006.

But with an es­ti­mated 1 mil­lion to 2 mil­lion chil­dren a year forced into sex­ual servi­tude in coun­tries around the world, the num­ber of prose­cu­tions re­mains small.

Carol S. Morency, an as­sis­tant gen­eral coun­sel with the Cana­dian Jus­tice De­part­ment, said Canada also has helped other coun­tries to pros­e­cute the crime. But, she con­ceded, Canada hasn’t de­voted as much man­power to the prob­lem as the United States. Typ­i­cally, Cana­dian diplo­matic mis­sions abroad have only one Royal Cana­dian Mounted Po­lice of­fi­cer to han­dle all crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Mr. Neil’s ar­rest also raised the ques­tion of whether he can or will be charged as a sex tourist if he ever re­turns to Canada. Ms. Morency said Cana­dian law pro­hibits some­one be­ing charged a sec­ond time in Canada for a crime al­ready pros­e­cuted in a for­eign coun­try, but if other vic­tims are iden­ti­fied, Mr. Paul could be charged for those crimes.

The pros­e­cu­tion and in­ves­ti­ga­tion of such crimes dif­fers from coun­try to coun­try. In Canada, the max­i­mum penalty for the crime is 14 years, while in the U.S. it car­ries a po­ten­tial 30-year prison term per of­fense. Some Euro­pean and Asian coun­tries re­quire tourist-in­dus­try work­ers to re­port sus­pi­cions of child-sex tourism.

But au­thor­i­ties say the crime is not easy to pros­e­cute. Aside from the need to co­op­er­ate with au­thor­i­ties in a for­eign coun­try, there is psy­cho­log­i­cal am­bi­gu­ity that in­fects peo­ple on both sides, said Ca­role Smolenski, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of EC­PAT (USA), a child pro­tec­tion ad­vo­cacy group.

The over­whelm­ingly male pur­chasers of child sex tell them­selves they are not pe­dophiles and that the post-pubescent teens they ex­ploit are just “young-look­ing girls,” she said. Oth­ers think they are pro­vid­ing money to the poor, she said, rather than abus­ing them be­cause they are poor.

“It’s also not fair to say this is a prob­lem only in Costa Rica or Cam­bo­dia. I’m in New York City, and I can see a place to buy kids from here, and I’ve seen places in [Wash­ing­ton,] D.C.,” she said.

In­deed, the ra­tio­nale of “just sex” goes be­yond the buy­ers to law en­force­ment, lawyers and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in many coun­tries.

Alan Young, a law pro­fes­sor at Toronto’s York Univer­sity, con­sid­ers the ex­trater­ri­to­rial ap­pli­ca­tion of Cana­dian law on Cana­di­ans hav­ing un­der­age sex abroad is a form of “moral en­trepreneur­ship.” If a Cana­dian abuses chil­dren in Thai­land, he said, “let him stand trial there.”

“If they don’t con­sider it a se­ri­ous of­fense there, why should we?” Mr. Young said.

An­other prob­lem is vary­ing ageof-con­sent laws, which in many coun­tries is 14 or 15 years old. Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials are less likely to in­ter­vene when lo­cal laws are not vi­o­lated. Ac­cord­ing to Free The Chil­dren In­ter­na­tional, 30 per­cent of Viet­nam’s 185,000 pros­ti­tutes are thought to be un­der age 16.

While Canada only has had one con­vic­tion to date, in March, a 56year-old Van­cou­ver man was charged with hav­ing sex with 17 un­der­age girls in Cam­bo­dia, Colom­bia and the Philip­pines. Sex tourists, like reg­u­lar tourists, of­ten bring back photo and video sou­venirs, and when Van­cou­ver air­port in­ves­ti­ga­tors found Ken­neth Robert Klassen’s col­lec­tion of child sex abuse, his home was searched. There, po­lice found video clips of his pur­ported sex crimes with 92 girls in three coun­tries.

Mr. Klassen’s ar­rest was made with the help of the FBI and po­lice agen­cies in the three af­fected coun­tries, said Van­cou­ver Royal Cana­dian Mounted Po­lice Cpl. Pierre Le­maitre and in­volved up to 20 of­fi­cers in Canada.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Thai po­lice of­fi­cers es­corted Christo­pher Paul Neil, a Cana­dian school­teacher sus­pected of be­ing a sex tourist, in Bangkok on Oct. 20 for in­ter­ro­ga­tion. Ac­cused of sex­u­ally abus­ing Asian boys as young as 6 years old, the 32-year-old was fi­nally ar­rested af­ter a three-year in­ter­na­tional man­hunt.

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