Author: Yuriy Nemets

IN PROTECTING REFUGEES AND ASYLUM-SEEKERS, THE COMMISSION FOR THE CONTROL OF INTERPOL’S FILES LOOKS BEYOND INTERPOL’S REFUGEE-ASYLUM-SEEKER POLICY

IN PROTECTING REFUGEES AND ASYLUM-SEEKERS, THE COMMISSION FOR THE CONTROL OF INTERPOL’S FILES LOOKS BEYOND INTERPOL’S REFUGEE-ASYLUM-SEEKER POLICY

In late 2014 – early 2015, INTERPOL introduced its refugee-asylum-seeker policy according to which “in general, the processing of Red Notices and diffusions against refugees will not be allowed if the following conditions are met: the status of a refugee or asylum-seeker has been confirmed, the notice/diffusion has been requested by the country where the individual fears persecution, and the granting of the refugee status is not based on political grounds vis-à-vis the requesting country.”  Since its adoption, the policy has become a true lifeline for many individuals targeted by abusive government requests disseminated via INTERPOL’s channels.  It is arguably the most straightforward way to fight an abusive Red Notice or diffusion.

Refugee Travel Document

The Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files has very rarely publicly opined on its application of the refugee-asylum-seeker policy.  Until recently, the Commission’s decision not to grant the relief provided by the policy to individuals who challenge government requests after they become the nationals of countries that have granted them asylum has been the most notable development.  In my opinion, this decision to limit the application of the policy is wrong.  This issue, however, deserves special attention, and I will give my reasoning in another publication.  Today, I want to discuss the Commission’s recent disclosure in which it signals its willingness to protect refugees and asylum-seekers from INTERPOL abuse even when the refugee-asylum-seeker policy does not apply.

In the disclosure, the Commission describes a case of an individual targeted by a Red Notice which also involves three different countries: (1) the country-source of data (the Red Notice), (2) the country of the individual’s nationality, and (3) the country that has granted him refugee status because of persecution in the country of his nationality and refused to extradite him to the country-source of data, citing possible violations of his fundamental rights by the latter if he is extradited.  In this regard, it is important to remember that under the second prong of the INTERPOL refugee-asylum-seeker policy, it applies to “notice[s]/diffusion[s] requested by the country where the individual fears persecution” (emphasis added).  Because the country of the individual’s nationality, whose conduct became the reason for the decision to grant the individual refugee status, was not the source of data in this case, the Commission refused to apply the policy and delete the Red Notice on this basis.  At the same time, the Commission did not ignore the individual’s refugee status either.

Following its consideration of all available evidence, the Commission, taking into consideration the totality of circumstances, ruled in the individual’s favor, citing, among other reasons, his refugee status.  In this regard, the Commission reasoned that although the INTERPOL refugee-asylum-seeker policy did not apply stricto sensu in this case, the fact that the individual was granted asylum could still serve as evidence, an “aggravating factor,” as the Commission put it, that INTERPOL’s involvement in the case may lead to a violation of Article 2 of the INTERPOL Constitution.

The sixth of NEMETS’ webinar series Open Conversations About INTERPOL Abuse will focus on the results of the 91st INTERPOL General Assembly

The sixth of NEMETS’ webinar series Open Conversations About INTERPOL Abuse will focus on the results of the 91st INTERPOL General Assembly

On December 7, 2023, NEMETS PLLC will host the sixth of its webinar series Open Conversations About INTERPOL Abuse.  This webinar will focus on the results of the 91st INTERPOL General Assembly.  Join us live on YouTube, Twitter (X) or Facebook!

INTERPOL has the power and obligation to prevent all abusive government requests from entering its channels, no exceptions

INTERPOL has the power and obligation to prevent all abusive government requests from entering its channels, no exceptions

This post is based on the article authored by Yuriy Nemets INTERPOL’s Power to Act Preemptively in Fighting Government Abuse, International Enforcement Law Reporter Vol. 35, Issue 5 (May 2019). See also Yuriy Nemets, INTERPOL’s Power to Prevent Diffusion Abuse: Legal, Political and Technological Considerations, International Enforcement Law Reporter Vol. 35, Issue 7 (July 2019)

In its 2017 annual report, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF) confirmed that INTERPOL did not have a comprehensive mechanism that would allow it to monitor incoming diffusions and other government requests, and that indeed some governments had succeeded in disseminating diffusions against the same individuals whom CCF had already found to be victims of their Red Notice abuse. At the time, I called upon INTERPOL to implement such mechanism to ensure that no government request enters its channels if it concerns an individual whom INTERPOL had already found to be the victim of government abuse of its resources.

Under INTERPOL’s rules, the General Secretariat must act preemptively, not just deal with abusive government requests after they are already disseminated through its channels. In this regard, it is important to remember that not only do INTERPOL’s rules give the Organization the power to screen all incoming diffusions, notices and other government requests and block them before they enter its channels, the rules actually require INTERPOL to do so to prevent abuse. The right of governments to send diffusions to each other directly, bypassing the General Secretariat, does not trump the latter’s power and obligation to monitor and block all incoming requests, including diffusions, to prevent governments from violating the Organization’s rules.

INTERPOL Headquarters, Lyon, France

The General Assembly, the body of supreme authority at INTERPOL, instructs that the Rules on the Processing of Data (RPD) “must be effectively implemented” (art. 17(1) of the RPD). RPD, which the General Assembly adopted, give the General Secretariat broad powers to ensure their effective implementation:  “If a doubt arises regarding compliance with the conditions for data processing, the General Secretariat shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any direct or indirect prejudice the data may cause to the Organization, its staff, its Members, the National Central bureaus, the national entities, the international entities or the individuals that the data concern” (emphasis added) (art. 129(1) of the RPD). Therefore, to perform its obligation to ensure that governments and other users comply with the Organization’s rules, the General Secretariat (1) does not have to possess strong evidence that a request for police cooperation is not compliant, since mere doubt suffices; (2) must use any means not contrary to INTERPOL’s rules to block a request from being communicated; and (3) must act preventively, that is, block a request before it is disseminated and before INTERPOL member countries learn about its existence.

No matter which instrument a government uses to transmit its request, a diffusion, notice or message, it utilizes INTERPOL’s resources, and, therefore, any such request must comply with the Organization’s regulations and is subject to the above-mentioned broad powers of the General Secretariat (art. 8(1) of the RPD). In this regard, RPD stress: “The processing of data through INTERPOL’s channels shall be done exclusively in the INTERPOL Information System” (art. 4(1) of the RPD). RPD define the “INTERPOL Information System” as “all structured material resources and software used by the Organization — databases, communications infrastructure, advanced sensor technology and other services — to process data through its channels in the context of international police cooperation” (emphasis added) (art. 1(4) of the RPD). “Processing” includes “collection, recording, consultation, transmission, use, disclosure and deletion” of data (emphasis added) (art. 1(5) of the RPD). Under RPD, diffusions are “sent directly to one or several [NCBs] or to one or several international entities, and simultaneously recorded in a police database of the Organization” (art. 1(14) of the RPD), notices are “published by the Organization at the request of a National Central Bureau or an international entity, or at the initiative of the General Secretariat, and sent to all the Organization’s Members” (art. 1(13) of the RPD), and messages are “sen[t] directly to one or several [NCBs] or to one or several international entities through the INTERPOL Information System” (emphasis added) (art. 1(15) of the RPD). Therefore, whether a government uses a diffusion, notice or message, it always processes information through INTERPOL’s channels, and RPD apply to any such use.

The General Secretariat has broad discretion over mechanisms and tools it needs to perform its obligation to ensure continuous compliance with INTERPOL’s rules. Moreover, RPD require the General Secretariat to find and put such mechanisms and tools in place to prevent any unlawful data processing. Under RPD, the General Secretariat must “organize and administer the INTERPOL Information System and decide upon which technologies it should be based” (art. 22(2) of the RPD), “set up any databases to ensure that data recorded in the Organization’s police databases comply with the present Rules and to avoid unauthorized or erroneous processing of data in the databases” (art. 125(1) of the RPD), and “put in place the mechanisms and tools to guarantee [the quality of data recorded and transmitted in the INTERPOL Information System] at all times” (emphasis added) (art. 12(3) of the RPD). Therefore, the General Secretariat can choose any mechanism that would guarantee that it meets its obligations, including continuous monitoring of all incoming diffusions, notices and other requests to ensure that no such request is communicated via INTERPOL’s channels if it concerns an individual already declared the victim of INTERPOL abuse.

It is important to remember that the General Secretariat’s obligation to monitor and block non-compliant diffusions, notices and other requests before they are processed via INTERPOL’s channels also derives from its duty to unconditionally enforce CCF’s decisions. No government has the right to use INTERPOL’s resources in violation of CCF’s decisions, and INTERPOL and its General Secretariat have no choice but to follow CCF’s conclusions. After CCF rules that data about an individual must be deleted, any speculation that the same government has the right to continue to process any information about the individual through INTERPOL without undergoing comprehensive screening is a contradiction of INTERPOL’s rules which unequivocally give the General Secretariat the power to conduct such screening and consider CCF’s decisions final and binding.  Any such speculation also makes the mechanism, which CCF and the General Secretariat represent and whose goal is to protect individuals from persecution and maintain INTERPOL’s neutrality, look useless.

Finally, if INTERPOL were denied the power to prevent non-compliant diffusions and other requests from being processed, it would also expose member countries-recipients of these requests to accusations of aiding and abetting governments-abusers.  RPD hold responsible not only countries from which such requests originate but recipients of that data as well for any violations of the Organization’s rules. The General Assembly has repeatedly stressed that recipients are responsible for any consequences arising out of them acting on the information they receive. In this regard, RPD repeatedly remind all recipients of data that before acting on it they must check its quality to make sure it is accurate, relevant, not excessive and up to date, require that they take “appropriate measures so that data received are immediately updated at the national level once they have been informed of any modification or deletion,” and hold them “fully responsible for … any action taken at the national level based on data they have received.”

Yuriy Nemets to speak at the American Bar Association panel ‘Latest Developments in INTERPOL’s and its Member Countries’ Approach to Transnational Repression’

Yuriy Nemets to speak at the American Bar Association panel ‘Latest Developments in INTERPOL’s and its Member Countries’ Approach to Transnational Repression’

On July 25, 2023, Yuriy Nemets will speak at the American Bar Association (ABA) panel ‘Latest Developments in INTERPOL’s and its Member Countries’ Approach to Transnational Repression.’ The panel will discuss the latest developments in the area of INTERPOL abuse and defending the rights of individuals on the international wanted list. This is the fifth panel dedicated to this pressing problem hosted by the American Bar Association. Yuriy has participated in all five previous panels under the aegis of the ABA. Before that, in 2018, a panel on the topic was hosted by the Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists (ACFCS) in which Yuriy participated as well. These panels are always comprised of experienced and dedicated professionals, attorneys who specialize in defending the victims of INTERPOL abuse as well as scholars who study and write about this issue. The panelists report on the most recent developments, such as INTERPOL’s latest approach to the interpretation and application of its rules, the reforms that must be carried out to bring the Organization’s redress mechanism closer to modern democratic due process requirements and legislative initiatives concerning INTERPOL abuse. It is exciting to witness the panel becoming a regular event. The discussions are always incredibly interesting and insightful. We are looking forward to this year’s panel, and we hope to see you there! Click here to register: https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__americanbar.zoom.us_webinar_register_WN-5FsUGjMqqXTze187DpIN5wnw&d=DwMGaQ&c=euGZstcaTDllvimEN8b7jXrwqOf-v5A_CdpgnVfiiMM&r=EdbakWNcaBtMWC6KkfB5Zv42TLxobocOWsk6DltS1vo&m=_LRIAoz2719_YERnqu6yP68mEHTn1DAZ1-4IRo7PyAJv0cZPjlPL9NhZY0njWAK1&s=kx7Vk6mMalntNgZ1ihFyyH90etRftbKAjHEYpMpv5-w&e=

INTERPOL Confirms the Limited Role of Preemptive Requests by Which Individuals Warn the Organization of Impending Government Abuse of its Resources

INTERPOL Confirms the Limited Role of Preemptive Requests by Which Individuals Warn the Organization of Impending Government Abuse of its Resources

According to INTERPOL, there are four types of requests that it receives from individuals: requests for access to the information in the Organization’s files, requests to correct or delete information (complaints), applications for the revision of decisions rendered by the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF), and preemptive (preventive) requests warning INTERPOL of potentially incoming abusive Red Notices, diffusions or other government requests.  Of those four, preemptive is the only type of individual request that is nowhere mentioned in INTERPOL’s rules.  It should not come as a surprise then that, unlike other individual requests, preemptive requests are not subject to any formal procedure for their consideration.

INTERPOL Headquarters, Lyon, France

It is no secret that INTERPOL has serious issues with transparency for which it is widely criticized.  One of the many examples is the INTERPOL refugee-asylum-seeker policy.  Even though the policy was first introduced in 2015 and has proven to be a significant step towards better protection of victims of INTERPOL abuse, to this day, the Organization has not published its text.  As ironic and incomprehensible as the absence of the policy in INTERPOL’s public disclosures is, at least, the policy has been officially adopted by the INTERPOL General Assembly, which makes requests based on its provisions subject to the same procedural rules that apply to requests for access and deletion of data.  At the same time, preemptive requests have no formal status that would make it mandatory for the Organization to consider them, render decisions and enforce them.  This creates a serious void in the INTERPOL redress mechanism.

Preemptive requests are important exactly because they are preemptive.  INTERPOL’s obligation to act preemptively in fighting government abuse is chiseled in the Organization’s rules.  The obligation is unambiguous, it is beyond dispute, and INTERPOL is given broad powers to fulfill it.  How is it possible then that INTERPOL does not have a clearly defined, transparent and accessible formal procedure for the consideration of requests that are designed to help the Organization to prevent the abuse before it occurs?  There can be no justification for such status quo.

For a very long time, INTERPOL would not comment on how it had been handling preemptive requests, although CCF on several occasions disclosed their number in its annual reports.  CCF does not consider preemptive requests because it sees its powers as limited to data already recorded in INTERPOL’s databases, while preemptive requests concern data that, at least to their authors’ knowledge, have not been communicated via the Organization’s channels yet.  INTERPOL has finally released its official guidance concerning the role of preemptive requests and how it handles them.  According to INTERPOL, after CCF receives a preemptive request, it forwards it to the General Secretariat for its “information and appropriate action.”  Neither does INTERPOL clarify what “appropriate action” means nor does the Organization guarantee that it will consider, much less act, on a preemptive request.  There is not even a hint that the General Secretariat would notify the author of a preemptive request whether it would take any steps to address her or his concerns or even that it would notify the author if a government request of which s/he is trying to warn INTERPOL is received.  INTERPOL has, therefore, confirmed the very limited role that preemptive requests play in the Organization’s activities.

In considering whether to file a preemptive request with INTERPOL, it is also important to remember that if CCF generally respects the confidentiality of individual submissions, no such obligation exists on the part of the General Secretariat.  That is, there is always a possibility that the information in a preemptive request will be shared with the government which the individual believes is planning on abusing INTERPOL’s channels as well as with other governments, and against the individual in question.

Taking into consideration the limited role of preemptive requests and the lack of guarantee that the information contained in them is kept confidential, the next obvious question is whether it is worth filing a preemptive request with INTERPOL.  It does, of course, depend on the circumstances of a particular case, but, in my opinion, in most cases it is worth it. After all, no matter how small the chance is that INTERPOL will act on a preemptive request, it might still prove to be more effective to warn the Organization of an incoming abusive Red Notice, diffusion or other government request than not.  It is, however, important to remember that, as mentioned above, INTERPOL might not treat the information in a preemptive request as confidential and draft such request with that in mind.

NEMETS Launches a Webinar Series Dedicated to the Problem of INTERPOL Abuse and Defending the Rights of Individuals on the International Wanted List

NEMETS Launches a Webinar Series Dedicated to the Problem of INTERPOL Abuse and Defending the Rights of Individuals on the International Wanted List

NEMETS Law Firm has launched a webinar series dedicated to the problem of Red Notice abuse and other abuse of INTERPOL’s channels. In this regard, Yuriy Nemets, the firm’s managing member, said: “INTERPOL defense is a fairly young area of law. Due to its relatively young age, there are very few sources from which individuals who become targets of Red Notices and other government requests disseminated via INTERPOL’s channels can gather information about their rights. It is also a very complex area of legal practice.  Over the years, many of INTERPOL’s initiatives expanding its role as the most effective hub for international police cooperation have created new dangers for the victims of abuse, while INTERPOL’s lawmaking has largely failed to keep up and ensure that this expanding role is in compliance with the organization’s human rights obligations.  At the same time, INTERPOL’s application of its rules in cases of abuse has formed a substantial body of ‘case law’ that has provided a valuable insight for legal professionals while leaving many important questions unanswered.  It is because of its depth and intricacies that we are launching this series. Our goal is to raise awareness, talk about the problems that the victims of Red Notice and other INTERPOL abuse face and, hopefully, find and suggest solutions to these problems.”

You can watch the first of the webinar series here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJIxNenMejE&t=23s

For Some INTERPOL Member Countries, Suspension and Expulsion Might Soon Become Real After All

For Some INTERPOL Member Countries, Suspension and Expulsion Might Soon Become Real After All

When it comes to INTERPOL abuse, the most noticeable item on the agenda of the 90th INTERPOL General Assembly (October 18-21, 2022) was the proposal to amend the INTERPOL Constitution to provide for the suspension and expulsion of member countries from the organization.  Currently, neither the Constitution nor any other INTERPOL rule allows for this.  The strictest sanction an INTERPOL member country may face is a long-term suspension of “processing” rights, specifically, the right to record, consult and download data in (from) INTERPOL’s databases.  Such suspension, however, would not affect a country’s other powers as a member of the organization.

INTERPOL Headquarters, Lyon, France

Calls to expel states-abusers are nothing new.  They have been growing for years, even after INTERPOL carried out several reforms to its redress mechanism in 2016-17.  To the public, the organization has been presenting the reforms as a significant step towards the protection of victims of the abuse of its resources.  In practice, however, the abuse does not seem to be receding at all, if not the other way around.  That is because the reforms have closed very few, of many, loopholes that contribute to the abuse, and since then, INTERPOL has demonstrated no readiness for any further steps towards curbing it.

In Resolution GA-2022-90-RES-02, the 90th General Assembly tasks the Working Group to Review Legal Provisions Relating to INTERPOL’s Governance Bodies with “mak[ing] comprehensive review of and propos[ing] modifications to INTERPOL’s legal texts in order to put in place criteria for the expulsion or suspension of a Member and the corresponding procedure that are in conformity with the current practice of international organizations and which would ensure transparency and consistency of the process.”  Clearly, when it comes to suspension or expulsion of its members, INTERPOL does not want to stand out among other international organizations.

It is unlikely, however, that INTERPOL will be able to borrow an already existing mechanism without significantly tailoring it to its unique mission.  Expulsion or suspension of just one member country may negatively affect regional and global security.  In addition to the information about individuals wanted for criminal prosecutions, INTERPOL provides access to data that helps to identify missing persons, rescue crime victims as well as other information crucial for legitimate criminal investigations.  That is why, most likely, the Working Group will propose a very high threshold for both suspension and expulsion of member states.  However, whatever the Working Group’s proposal may be, the General Assembly has made it very clear — there must be a path to suspend and expel a member state.  Accordingly, the Working Group is unlikely to advise against such a path, and it is now faced with a very challenging task.

A mechanism for suspension or expulsion of member countries is bound to force INTERPOL to address yet another important issue, its lack of transparency.  The General Assembly’s Resolution calls for “transparency” in the suspension and expulsion process.  However, there can be no transparency without INTERPOL publishing the information about the full extent of the abuse of its resources (including the names of countries-abusers and the nature and number of their violations), which the organization has never done before.  INTERPOL is the only source of such information, and, to this day, it has published virtually nothing in this regard.  It would be impossible for INTERPOL to achieve the desired transparency without finally, after years of unpunished abuse, becoming fully transparent about those who use its resources to persecute rather than prosecute.

Notices and Diffusions Task Force: The Most Secretive Part of INTERPOL’s Redress Mechanism

Notices and Diffusions Task Force: The Most Secretive Part of INTERPOL’s Redress Mechanism

In August 2017, just over two weeks apart, two European Union citizens, writer Dogan Akhanli and journalist Hamza Yalçin, both critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime, were detained in Spain.  Spanish authorities acted on requests that Turkey was able to disseminate via INTERPOL following what Erdogan branded a failed coup against him.  After these incidents, a meeting between European Union and INTERPOL officials took place during which the latter reportedly assured their counterparts that the INTERPOL Notices and Diffusions Task Force (NDTF) was reviewing 40,000 Red Notices to ensure that they were not politically motivated.  At the time, I wrote about my doubts regarding the NDTF activities.  Among the things I questioned was how INTERPOL was planning on conducting such a massive review in an effective and objective manner.  A comprehensive examination of 40,000 government requests would be an enormous undertaking, even if INTERPOL significantly increased its staff and funding.  Such a review would require INTERPOL to go far beyond what is already recorded in its databases, which is the very limited information that governments must produce to have their requests disseminated via the organization’s channels.  In most cases, such information does not allow INTERPOL to ensure that a government request complies with its rules.  However, it was not only the high volume of information that the NDTF would have to go through that made me question its activities, but the source of such information as well.  Because INTERPOL is prohibited from sharing with an individual any information about her or him without the government’s consent, or even the existence of such information in the organization’s databases, the NDTF would often have to look to the government alone for any information about a particular case.  It is hard to imagine a country seeking to abuse INTERPOL and at the same time willing to produce objective information to help the organization to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the country’s use of its channels.

Four and a half years later, my doubts concerning the NDTF have anything but disappeared.  I continue to consider it part of INTERPOL’s public relations strategy in the face of the growing discontent over the organization’s involvement in human rights violations as opposed to a meaningful step towards the protection of victims of abuse of INTERPOL’s channels.  There is virtually no information about the NDTF in the public domain.  The only thing that INTERPOL has allowed the public to learn is that the NDTF consists of several dozen staff tasked with assessing government requests at its own initiative.  There is no publicly available information on the requirements that the NDTF staff must meet or the methodologies or procedures that it must follow, if any.  Moreover, INTERPOL has not disclosed the results of the NDTF work, which begs the question: is the NDTF effective at all?  How many government requests has the NDTF reviewed since it was established, how many of them has it found to be in violation of INTERPOL’s rules, what is the nature of such violations, who are the countries-abusers?  All these questions remain unanswered.  Moreover, I am not aware of any case in which the NDTF has informed the individual concerned about the results of its review.

Why not bring NDTF, which INTERPOL promotes as an important addition to its redress mechanism, out of the shadows?  Why not adopt and publish requirements and procedures that the NDTF must follow as well as the information about the results of its work?  Unlike the NDTF, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF), another part of the INTERPOL redress mechanism, has a statute, rules of procedure, and it publishes excerpts from its decisions in individual cases, thereby providing practitioners with some insight into its application of INTERPOL’s rules.  Although CCF is still far from achieving its much-needed transparency, the NDTF does not have even one percent of the information published about it that is publicly available about CCF.  Under such circumstances, the NDTF cannot be seen as even remotely meaningful in the fight against INTERPOL abuse.

The INTERPOL General Assembly Has Just Set Its Priorities, and Human Rights is Not One of Them

The INTERPOL General Assembly Has Just Set Its Priorities, and Human Rights is Not One of Them

I don’t recall another year in which INTERPOL received as much criticism from the media and advocacy organizations for its handling of government abuse of its channels – and did so much more to validate that criticism.

INTERPOL Headquarters, Lyon, France

This year, the INTERPOL 89th General Assembly met in Turkey.  When the host was announced, many of us expressed our frustration.  Turkey is well known for abusing INTERPOL.  The most glaring example was reportedly its attempt to put numerous people accused of participating in the failed coup against president Erdogan on the INTERPOL wanted list.  As member countries’ delegates were preparing for their trip to Istanbul this year, the Turkish government complained about INTERPOL refusing to cooperate in some of those cases against the Gülen movement.  INTERPOL’s rules do not grant countries-hosts of its meetings any privileges when it comes to filling high posts within the organization or voting to amend its rules.  However, for a country accused of abusing INTERPOL, the expenses are still worth it – if INTERPOL accepts the invitation, the host country looks accepted as well despite its misconduct.

We then learned that INTERPOL had lifted the “corrective measures” that it imposed on Syria nine years earlier.  That announcement from INTERPOL made even bigger news, with numerous voices expressing concern for Syrian refugees whose risk of being detained and extradited had become even more real.

The New Mosque (Yeni Cami) in Istanbul, Turkey

Yet another cause for concern was the UAE and China, both known for abusing INTERPOL, and who both fought to have their nationals elected to the Executive Committee.  The INTERPOL president heads the Executive Committee which, among other things, supervises the execution of the General Assembly’s decisions and the General Secretariat’s work.  The 89th General Assembly approved the changes to INTERPOL’s rules that are supposed to make the elections of president and other members of the Executive Committee more transparent and the Code of Conduct for Executive Committee members, all of this only to elect the UAE representative INTERPOL’s new president the next day.  This happened despite the serious allegations and harrowing recollections published against the country’s regime.  China now has its national on the Executive Committee as well.  To complete the sad irony, this Executive Committee will vote to adopt the Code of Conduct for its members presented to it by the General Assembly.

What about the redress mechanism for the victims of INTERPOL abuse?  While the General Assembly approved the organization’s budget for 2022, the already strained budget of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files responsible for adjudicating complaints from individuals challenging government use of INTERPOL’s resources was left virtually unchanged.  This is despite the growing number of cases before the Commission.  Finally, the 89th INTERPOL General Assembly did not consider the much-needed reforms necessary to guarantee victims of INTERPOL abuse due process.

Clearly, the majority of INTERPOL member countries do not take the abuse of the organization’s channels seriously.  If they did, the results of the 89th General Assembly would be very different – it would have selected a different president, passed the reforms to close the loopholes in the INTERPOL redress mechanism and significantly increased the budget of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files.

Imagine the Taliban Using INTERPOL

Imagine the Taliban Using INTERPOL

For several days, the world watched Afghanistan fall into the hands of the Taliban.  What seems even more stunning than the speed with which the country has been taken over is what appears to be the readiness of some politicians, including those representing Western democracies, to recognize the new regime as a legitimate government.  Let us imagine the Taliban using INTERPOL.

Shortly after the takeover began, INTERPOL reportedly suspended Afghanistan’s access to its databases. The organization acted swiftly and properly in this case.  Evidently, using INTERPOL to track down top members of the overthrown government was among the new regime’s top priorities, as just days after they left the country, it requested that INTERPOL put them on the international wanted list.  Once again, not only does this prove INTERPOL’s major role in fighting crime, but its image as an effective and powerful tool in political conflicts as well.  It is important to note that INTERPOL has reportedly not approved the requests.

It is highly unlikely, however, that the Taliban’s ambition to track down its opponents will end with the country’s former heads of state and their cabinet members.  In this regard, past experience shows that when the targets are high-ranking officials, INTERPOL is often proactive and ready to prevent the abuse of its channels before it occurs, especially when a government request is submitted during or shortly after a turbulent political event in the country.  Unfortunately, INTERPOL is rarely proactive in other cases, and if the Taliban is recognized as a legitimate power and the country’s access to INTERPOL’s databases is restored, many of those who manage to leave Afghanistan will likely face the same fate as so many human rights activists, journalists, bloggers, scholars, and others who have become victims of INTERPOL abuse committed by other countries.

Following their withdrawal from Afghanistan, for the United States and its allies, the problem of INTERPOL abuse is about to become as topical as ever taking into consideration the large number of refugees, including interpreters and others whose help the coalition depended on during its 20-year-long presence in the country.  The question is, will this make the United States and its allies finally recognize the urgency of further reforms within INTERPOL and the need for their active participation in that process?

 

close

Subscribe to receive new posts by email!