Category: Political Prosecutions & INTERPOL

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?

 

Will the Expansion of INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents Database Lead to an Expansion of INTERPOL Abuse?

Will the Expansion of INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents Database Lead to an Expansion of INTERPOL Abuse?

According to the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF), some governments have abused INTERPOL’s channels for political and other unlawful purposes even after the organization refused to process their Red Notices and diffusions. In its annual report for 2017, CCF acknowledged that it had “processed requests which highlighted the use of [INTERPOL’s] SLTD [(Stolen and Lost Travel Documents)] database where a diffusion or a notice to arrest a person was considered not to comply with INTERPOL’s rules.”

Any INTERPOL member country can add information about a travel document it has issued to the SLTD database, which allows law enforcement around the world, including at border crossings, to check if a document has been reported lost or stolen and take appropriate actions. Information in the SLTD database is also available to INTERPOL’s “trusted partners in the private sector” so that they too can relay a positive ‘hit’ to law enforcement. According to INTERPOL, the SLTD database contains around 89 million records of lost, stolen and revoked travel documents; in 2019 alone, it was searched 3.7 billion times and resulted in 270,000 positive matches.

CCF has called government use of the SLTD database after INTERPOL’s refusal to process their Red Notices and/or diffusions against the same individuals “misuse of INTERPOL’s channels.” CCF has stressed that the organization would delete any such data from the database. Although the CCF 2017 report does not discuss the extent of the abuse of the SLTD database, INTERPOL has recognized that more needs to be done to address the issue. In this regard, it has resolved to “provide INTERPOL members with a limited list of appropriate purposes to record data in that database to avoid any misuse.” In addition, CCF has “insisted on the need to ensure that the definition of ‘revoked travel documents’ is clear enough to prevent the possible misuse of the SLTD database, in particular to locate a person where a diffusion or a notice could not be issued.” CCF has also “invited the General Secretariat to clarify the purpose of the SLTD and of the processing of revoked travel documents in the SLTD standard operating procedures.”

No wonder then that CCF also became concerned when it was subsequently consulted on the creation of a new category of documents, called “invalid,” which would include “expired, damaged or destroyed” travel documents. In its 2018 annual report, CCF warned that this new category could also be “misused or may not include an explanation as to why a document had been invalidated.” According to the report, the INTERPOL General Secretariat “consequently updated the SLTD Standard Operating Procedures in order to clarify the conditions applicable to the quality of the data processed in the SLTD database that are required to comply with INTERPOL’s rules.”

It remains unclear, however, whether or not the amendments made to the SLTD regulations mentioned above have had any meaningful effect. INTERPOL should conduct comprehensive monitoring to prevent abuse of the SLTD database before it occurs, but whether or not such monitoring has been introduced is also an open question.

Application of the “Private Disputes” Provision and Article 3 of the INTERPOL Constitution: the Need for Clarification

Application of the “Private Disputes” Provision and Article 3 of the INTERPOL Constitution: the Need for Clarification

INTERPOL Headquarters, Lyon, France

Under Article 83(1)(a)(i) of INTERPOL’s Rules on the Processing of Data (RPD), “Red notices may not be published for . . . offences . . . deriving from private disputes, unless the criminal activity is aimed at facilitating a serious crime or is suspected of being connected to organized crime.”  I am often contacted by entrepreneurs with red notices and diffusions published at the request of or disseminated by countries where illegal business takeovers are common.  Such takeovers are usually characterized by criminal conduct from a party attempting to force a business owner to surrender her/his rights or interest in the business against the latter’s will by means of force, threats and/or extortion and accompanied by trumped-up charges against the victim brought by corrupt government officials in aid of the takeover if the victim refuses to comply.  In its 2016 annual report, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF) highlights politically motivated prosecutions of “particularly influential businessmen” among the main substantive issues before it.  In its 2017 report, the Commission notes that “[w]hile a few of [the cases challenging compliance with Article 3] involve former high-ranking politicians, most of them concern people involved in business activities and charged with various fraud-related offenses.”  In this regard, I believe it is crucial that the Commission inform the general public about its interpretation of the “private disputes” provision of Article 83(1)(a)(i) of the RPD in the context of illegal business takeovers.  Does the Commission consider illegal business takeovers described above private disputes for the purposes of Article 83(1)(a)(i) and red notices and diffusions arising out of such takeovers to be in violation of said provision?  In addition, it would be very helpful if the Commission provided examples or hypotheticals of what it would consider to be a “private dispute” for the purposes of Article 81(1)(a)(i) of the RPD.

It is my understanding that the Commission has been applying Article 3 of the INTERPOL Constitution in cases in which the initial reason for the criminal prosecution is not the individual’s involvement in any political, religious, military or racial activity, but rather the government’s participation in an illegal seizure of the individual’s assets or the government’s involvement in a civil dispute with said individual.  I believe the Commission has signaled this approach in at least two cases.  In one of its published decisions, the Commission ruled that the prosecution in aid of an attempt by government officials to take control of the individual’s assets was predominantly political and, therefore, in violation of Article 3.  In another case, the Commission ruled in favor of the individual who claimed that the prosecution was in retaliation for the arbitration proceedings against the requesting government.  I believe the Commission has also signaled this approach in its two most recent annual reports mentioned above.  However, these decision excerpts and annual reports merely suggest that the Commission has taken this approach; they do not unequivocally confirm that.  In this regard, it would be very helpful if the Commission officially clarified its position: does it consider Article 3 applicable in cases in which the initial reason for the criminal prosecution is not the individual’s involvement in any political, religious, military or racial activity, but rather the government’s unlawful conduct, including, but not limited to, illegal takeovers of businesses as described above, extortion by a government official threatening the individual with a trumped-up charge if s/he does not comply with the unlawful demand, or the government’s involvement in a private (civil or commercial) dispute with such individual?

CCF Latest Report: Enforcement Loopholes, Political Prosecutions of Businessmen, Lack of Transparency

CCF Latest Report: Enforcement Loopholes, Political Prosecutions of Businessmen, Lack of Transparency

INTERPOL Headquarters, Lyon, France

The Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF) has published its new annual report.  It covers the Commission’s activities throughout 2017, including the transition it has undergone to comply with its new Statute adopted by the INTERPOL General Assembly.  The report also reflects on the problems with the enforcement of decisions to remove politically motivated or otherwise unlawful red notices and diffusions, the Commission’s application of Article 3 of the INTERPOL Constitution, and the lack of transparency in its public disclosures.

Last year, Spanish authorities detained Bill Browder, a prominent critic of Vladimir Putin.  Although the full circumstances of this arrest remain unclear, it has been alleged that Spain acted on an active Russian request disseminated through INTERPOL’s channels.  Prior to this arrest, Russia had made several attempts to publish a red notice against Mr. Browder.  INTERPOL had refused to cooperate and called the case predominantly political.  Nevertheless, in 2017, Russia reportedly succeeded in disseminating a diffusion against Mr. Browder.  Unlike red notices, diffusions aren’t subject to any screening from INTERPOL prior to their publication.

After Mr. Browder’s arrest in Spain, INTERPOL’s enforcement of the Commission’s decisions became the center of attention.  Did INTERPOL successfully block each and every red notice and diffusion already found to be in violation of its rules from being disseminated?  I can think of only two reasons why an individual found to be a victim of INTERPOL abuse would appear on the international wanted list at the same country’s request: either INTERPOL did not have a comprehensive mechanism that would match incoming red notices and diffusions with its prior findings of abuse, or the organization had an unspoken policy which would under certain circumstances allow the same governments to put victims of their abuse back on the wanted list.

According to its latest report, “[t]he Commission dealt with cases where the sources of data have sent a diffusion to INTERPOL members to request the arrest of an individual, whereas a request for a red notice has previously been refused.”  Moreover, “[i]t also processed requests which highlighted the use of the SLTD [(Stolen and Lost Travel Documents)] database where a diffusion or a notice to arrest a person was considered not to comply with INTERPOL’s rules.”  In the report, the Commission calls this practice “misuse of INTERPOL’s channels,” and notes that it deletes any such data and informs the countries which received it that its channels cannot be used in such cases.  The report, therefore, confirms that INTERPOL does not possess a comprehensive mechanism that would preclude the same governments from putting individuals found to be victims of red notice and diffusion abuse on the INTERPOL wanted list.  This is, of course, unfortunate, because the loophole should be easy to fix by simply implementing a reliable computer software.  The recent reforms aimed at guaranteeing individuals an effective remedy against INTERPOL abuse seem futile if governments can with impunity (taking into consideration INTERPOL’s unwillingness to punish countries-abusers) harass their victims by utilizing diffusions or the SLTD database. The question remains, after an abusive government exercises all these ‘options,’ is this the end of harassment, or is there yet another way to put the same individual back on the international wanted list by, for example, charging her/him with a new crime or issuing a different type of notice?

Another major takeaway from the Commission’s latest report is its application of Article 3 of the INTERPOL Constitution.  In its 2016 annual report, the Commission for the first time in its annual public disclosures recognized politically motivated prosecutions of businessmen among the main issues before it.  At the same time, it did not comment on its application of Article 3 in cases in which individuals have not actively engaged in any political activities but instead became victims of corrupt prosecutions, for example, in aid of an illegal takeover of their businesses or other proprietary rights.  Some of the published excerpts from the Commission’s decisions in individual cases suggest that it has applied Article 3 in such cases despite the fact that there has been no active political activity on the part of the individuals challenging the governments’ use of INTERPOL’s channels.  The 2017 annual report also suggests that the Commission has taken this approach: “While a few of [Article 3] cases involve former high-ranking politicians, most of them concern people involved in business activities and charged with various fraud-related offenses.”  Although the Commission still has not unequivocally confirmed that Article 3 applies in such cases, its published decisions and the latest annual report suggest that it does.

The third important takeaway from the 2017 report is that the Commission has still not truly become any more transparent and yet again avoided disclosing the names of countries that have violated its rules.  Despite the growing attention being paid to INTERPOL abuse, the number of instances in which the public learns about the countries-abusers and the nature of their violations is very low compared to the growing number of complaints the Commission receives from individuals.  In its 2010 annual report the Commission identified member countries against which it had received the majority of complaints without, however, naming the countries the Commission found to be in violation of INTERPOL’s rules and the nature of their violations.  None of the Commission’s reports for the following years, including its most recent report, identifies member countries against which the Commission has received complaints, the number of times the Commission found those countries in violations of its rules or the nature of their violations.  The Commission purview clearly empowers it to disclose this information to the general public.

Hakeem al-Araibi Case Shows How Vulnerable Refugees Remain to INTERPOL Abuse

Hakeem al-Araibi Case Shows How Vulnerable Refugees Remain to INTERPOL Abuse

Refugee Travel Document

In February 2015, the INTERPOL Executive Committee disseminated among the organization’s member countries a new policy according to which INTERPOL would generally refuse to cooperate with governments seeking detention of refugees and asyum-seekers.  Although the policy should help INTERPOL protect individuals from persecution, which the organization considers one of the primary objectives of all its activities, it has significant loopholes.  One of such loopholes is that the policy does not consider refugees and asylum-seekers an exception to the INTERPOL general rule that an individual cannot learn whether there is a request for her or his arrest (known as a “red notice” or a “diffusion”) in the INTERPOL databases without the government’s consent.  As a result, like other individuals, refugees and asylum-seekers often learn that there is a red notice or a diffusion against them only after they are detained due to an INTERPOL alert.  An arrest may lead to a prolonged detention and potentially extradition.  For refugees and asylum-seekers who find themselves in this situation, the rights provided for in the INTERPOL policy come too late.

Manama, Bahrain

Hakeem al-Araibi is far from the first refugee to be detained due to an INTERPOL alert since the organization introduced the policy.  For example, in the summer of 2016, Italian authorities acting on an Iranian red notice detained Mehdi Khosravi, an Iranian national and human rights activist with refugee status granted by the United Kingdom.  Similarly, Paramjeet Singh, a supporter of Sikhs’ right to self-determination who fled India and in 2000 was granted refugee status in Great Britain, was arrested in December 2015 due to an Indian red notice and spent two months in detention before Portugal agreed to release him.

Parliament House, Canberra, Australia

Should we expect INTERPOL to improve the policy and stop the continuing abuse of its resources against refugees and asylum-seekers?  In September 2017, the General Assembly, the body of supreme authority at INTERPOL, adopted a Resolution endorsing the Executive Committee’s policy.  The Resolution, however, seems to indicate that the General Assembly is much more concerned about criminals abusing refugee status than governments abusing INTERPOL to persecute refugees and asylum seekers.  While the Resolution calls upon governments and INTERPOL to do everything in their power to ensure that refugee status is not abused and to that end enhance the exchange of information in the process of examining asylum applications, it makes no reference to Article 3 of the INTERPOL Constitution, which strictly forbids the organization from participating in any activity of a political, military, religious or racial character, or to the need to protect individuals from persecution.  Despite the continuing abuse of INTERPOL’s resources against refugees and asylum seekers, nothing in the Resolution calls upon INTERPOL to address the problem.

INTERPOL must make an exception and provide refugees and asylum seekers the right to know if there is information about them in the organization’s databases without obtaining prior consent from the respective governments.  Otherwise, Hakeem al-Araibi will not be the last refugee-victim of INTERPOL abuse.

 

American Bar Association Panel ‘Red Notices and the INTERPOL Wanted List: Balancing Law Enforcement with Due Process’

American Bar Association Panel ‘Red Notices and the INTERPOL Wanted List: Balancing Law Enforcement with Due Process’

On January 29, 2019, Theodore Bromund (The Heritage Foundation), Michelle Estlund (Estlund Law), Yuriy Nemets (Nemets Law Firm), Rebecca Schaeffer (Fair Trials) and Bruce Zagaris (Berliner Corcoran & Rowe) spoke at the event ‘Red Notices and the INTERPOL Wanted List: Balancing Law Enforcement with Due Process’ organized by the American Bar Association (ABA) and Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists (ACFCS).  The panel discussed the problem of INTERPOL abuse by governments that use the organization’s resources to persecute political opponents and other victims of unlawful criminal prosecutions:

United States Senators Introduce a Bill Against Russia’s Abuse of INTERPOL’s Resources

United States Senators Introduce a Bill Against Russia’s Abuse of INTERPOL’s Resources

Senators Graham, Menendez, Gardner, and Cardin have recently introduced a bipartisan bill called “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2018.”  In addition to promoting the strengthening of the NATO alliance, increasing diplomatic efforts, fighting against international cybercrime, election interference and other measures, the bill addresses Russia’s abuse of INTERPOL’s resources: “It is the sense of Congress that the Government of the Russian Federation has abused and misused INTERPOL’s red notice and red diffusion mechanisms for overly political purposes and activities such as intimidating, harassing, and persecuting political opponents.”  If the bill becomes law, it will be the first US law specifically targeting Russia for its abuse of INTERPOL’s channels.

The United States Capitol, Washington DC

The bill calls upon the United States Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to “use the voice and influence of the United States at INTERPOL to censure and sanction” Russia for its abuse of the organization’s resources, “including the suspension of [its] ability to use INTERPOL’s red notice and red diffusion mechanisms.”  It is important to remember that the United States, like any other member country, has only one vote at the INTERPOL General Assembly.  To address Russia’s abuse of red notices and diffusions, the United States will have to convince the majority of the organization’s member countries to join its efforts.  Although the bill largely leaves it to the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to decide on specific steps, it clearly obliges the agencies to actively seek a solution to the problem.

In addition to calling for increased efforts in the international arena, the bill contains important protections the United States would provide the victims of INTERPOL abuse: “No United States person or foreign person that is the subject of a red notice or red diffusion requested by the Government of the Russian Federation shall be denied access to any United States Government services or programs because the person is subject to such red notice or diffusion, including requesting asylum, requesting a visa, or participating in a visa waiver program or the Transportation Security Administration’s Trusted Traveler Program.”  Although a red notice or diffusion on its own should not serve as proof of any misconduct on the part of the individual and, therefore, be used to deny her or him any of the services mentioned in the bill, in practice, US officials have often mistakenly interpreted red notices and diffusions as precisely that – evidence of criminal behavior.

Reportedly, there have been cases in which United States immigration judges denied asylum-seekers bond or refugee status or both and cited red notices or diffusions as a basis for their decisions.  In such cases, immigration authorities have wrongly interpreted red notices and diffusions as evidence against asylum-seekers.  At the same time, unlike asylum cases, which are often reviewed in courts and become a matter of public record, visa denials are rarely subject to judicial review, and there is no publicly available data regarding the number of visa applications denied due to an active red notice or diffusion.  Despite the lack of comprehensive statistics, practitioners have sounded the alarm on the ever increasing number of such denials.  It is, therefore, both timely and critical for Congress to put an end to this unlawful practice and adopt a law clearly proclaiming that red notices and diffusions are not admissible as evidence against the individual in question, whether it be an extradition, asylum or any other matter.

It is also important to remember that Russia is far from being the only abuser of INTERPOL’s channels, although it is arguably among the major ones.  That is why US efforts should not be limited to specific countries.  We need to help INTERPOL prevent the abuse or, at the very least, minimize it no matter who the abuser is.  It is also important to remember that suspending the Russian government, or any other government, from issuing red notices and diffusions, as suggested in the bill, could have serious negative consequences for the security of the rest of INTERPOL’s 191 member countries.  INTERPOL’s regulations give the organization the power to suspend any country’s use of its databases if the country utilizes them for unlawful purposes.  It is not clear whether INTERPOL has ever resorted to this measure.  However, such a measure could do more harm than good by crippling legitimate international police cooperation.  If a country cannot access the INTERPOL databases, it might not be able to prevent real criminals from entering its territory and thereby escaping justice.  At the same time, if a government’s access is suspended, and it cannot put individuals on the international wanted list, other governments may not be able to identify real criminals coming from a country with suspended access and thereby unwillingly provide them shelter and the ability to continue their criminal activities in their territory.  Indeed, there are other measures that have been proposed which INTERPOL could adopt to minimize red notice and diffusion abuse without disrupting legitimate international police cooperation.

 

Bill Browder’s Case Highlights Loopholes in Relief INTERPOL Grants Victims of Red Notice Abuse

Bill Browder’s Case Highlights Loopholes in Relief INTERPOL Grants Victims of Red Notice Abuse

On May 30 of this year, acting on an INTERPOL alert, Spanish authorities detained Bill Browder, an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin’s regime.  Prior to this arrest, Russia had reportedly made at least five attempts to put Mr. Browder on the international wanted list.  In the past, INTERPOL refused to cooperate, citing the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF), which concluded that his case was predominantly political.  After several hours and, reportedly, the personal involvement of the INTERPOL Secretary General, Spanish police released Mr. Browder.

The full circumstances of this arrest remain unclear.  According to some reports, at the time, there was an active Russian request to detain Mr. Browder published in INTERPOL’s database.  INTERPOL, however, denied its involvement, and some commentators argued that Spain could have acted on old information in its national database, which the country failed to update timely to reflect the changes in INTERPOL’s files.  In its public statement, INTERPOL denies that there has ever been a red notice against Mr. Browder recorded in its database, but as Ted Bromund rightfully notes, the statement “is economic with the truth.”  The fact that INTERPOL has never approved a red notice against Mr. Browder doesn’t mean that there has never been a diffusion against him in the organization’s database.  Unlike red notices, diffusions aren’t subject to any screening from INTERPOL prior to their publication.  Indeed, in 2017, Russia reportedly succeeded in publishing a diffusion against Mr. Browder.  That is, after several unsuccessful attempts to have INTERPOL approve a red notice, the Russian government took the easier path of publishing a diffusion, thereby bypassing any preliminary check from the organization.

Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Moscow

Whether it was a failure to update the national database or a new diffusion that led to Mr. Browder’s arrest in Spain, both can happen to anyone who has ever been on the INTERPOL wanted list.  As long as either of these scenarios exists, any relief the CCF grants victims of red notice or diffusion abuse is limited at best.

The fact that individuals remain under the threat of arrest just because INTERPOL and its member countries have failed to ensure that national and INTERPOL databases are simultaneously updated is, quite frankly, appalling.  Objectively, this should have been the first obvious step to ensure that decisions to remove individuals from the international wanted list were enforced.  At the same time, the lack of an official public statement from INTERPOL on how it works to prevent the publication of red notices and diffusions the CCF has already declared unlawful, is yet another reason to wonder if the organization even has a plan to deal with the problem.

The public deserves to know whether INTERPOL is committed to enforcing its own decisions not to cooperate with governments in individual cases.  Does the organization monitor all incoming red notices and diffusions to make sure they are not published if the CCF has already found them to be predominantly political or otherwise unlawful?  If it is a matter of finding and implementing a reliable technology, the loophole should be easy to fix: such monitoring could be conducted via reliable computer software.  If, however, it is a matter of policy and INTERPOL allows governments to publish red notices and diffusions already found to be in violation of the organization’s rules, the problem is much more serious.

The Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation, Moscow

If INTERPOL has interpreted its rules to mean that governments can, under certain circumstances, place individuals, whose complaints the CCF has already approved, on the international wanted list, then its interpretation is wrong.  Only the CCF has the power to reverse its own decisions.  Neither the INTERPOL Constitution nor its other regulations grant any other body that power.  If INTERPOL believes it can allow a government to put an individual, already declared a victim of INTERPOL abuse, on the wanted list if the government simply brings new charges, it is hard to imagine that INTERPOL doesn’t realize how easy it is for a government to come up with new trumped-up charges.

Whether it is a technological or a policy loophole that allows governments to continue to use INTERPOL to persecute individuals the CCF has already declared victims of red notice or diffusion abuse, that loophole must be closed immediately.  If INTERPOL fails to act, there will be many more cases like Bill Browder’s.  In the meantime, Russia is already reportedly considering its next, seventh, attempt to put him on the international wanted list.

INTERPOL Red Notice Abuse: Whistleblowers Have Rights Too

INTERPOL Red Notice Abuse: Whistleblowers Have Rights Too

It has been reported that INTERPOL has refused to cooperate with Russia in the case of Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory-turned-whistleblower.  Mr. Rochenkov has publicly accused the Russian government of running a doping scheme during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.  Mr. Rodchenkov’s case may look like just another government trying to abuse INTERPOL’s resources to persecute a political opponent.  However, it stands out because the target of the red notice is a whistleblower wanted not because of his political beliefs but because as a previous insider, he witnessed and exposed the government’s misconduct.

Mr. Rodchenkov’s story prompted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to investigate the allegations.  Mr. Rodchenkov’s story is described in media reports and the Academy Award-winning documentary “Icarus.”  After Mr. Rodchenkov went public with his story, the Russian government filed criminal charges against him.  He managed to leave the country, and Russian law enforcement sought INTERPOL’s cooperation in locating him and bringing him back.

INTERPOL’s rules don’t specifically address the red notice abuse against whistleblowers.  Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the INTERPOL Constitution and the organization’s regulations based on it protect whistleblowers to the same degree they protect politicians, activists, reporters, entrepreneurs, and other individuals who often become victims of politically motivated criminal charges.  Mr. Rodchenkov’s case proves that to comply with its Constitution, which strictly prohibits INTERPOL from undertaking any activity of a political nature, it is crucial for the organization to protect whistleblowers from the abuse of its resources.

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