Category: Refugees

INTERPOL’s Policy on Refugees Needs Improvement

INTERPOL’s Policy on Refugees Needs Improvement

Refugee Travel Document

In June 2014, the INTERPOL Executive Commitee introduced a new policy on refugees. Under the policy,

[i]n general, the processing of red notices and diffusions against refugees will not be allowed if the following conditions are met:

  • the status of refugee or asylum-seeker has been confirmed;
  • the notice / diffusion has been requested by the country where the individual fears persecution;
  • the granting of refugee status is not based on political grounds.

Since the policy came into force, INTERPOL has approved a number of requests from refugees asking to delete information about them from INTERPOL’s databases. The policy has been a significant step towards protection of refugees from member countries that abuse INTERPOL’s resources to persecute political opponents and other victims of unlawful criminal prosecutions. Nevertheless, the policy needs improvement.

Among the issues is that the policy does not guarantee any refugee the right to have the red notice or diffusion deleted. According to the policy, it is to be applied “in general.” By making this reservation, INTERPOL appears to retain the right to make exceptions and deny a refugee the relief whenever the organization deems proper.

Another significant flaw is that refugees are not exempt from the rule that INTERPOL doesn’t disclose whether there is information about an individual in its databases without the government’s consent. As a result, refugees, like other individuals, often learn that there is a red notice or diffusion against them only after they are detained due to the INTERPOL alert. In cases like these, the rights provided in the policy come too late.

In September 2017, the 86th INTERPOL General Assembly voted in favor of the policy and thereby assured its stability. Apart from that approval, the General Assembly seems to be more concerned about criminals unlawfully obtaining refugee status to shield themselves from legitimate prosecutions than about the victims of INTERPOL red notice abuse. In its Resolution GA-2017-86-RES-09, the General Assembly calls upon members countries to ensure that terrorists and other criminals don’t abuse refugee status. At the same time, the resolution fails to mention the need to protect individuals from persecution, to which INTERPOL refers as one of the three primary objectives of Article 3 of its Constitution, which “strictly forbid[s] . . . the Organization to understate any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.” Nothing in the resolution calls upon member countries to address the continuing abuse of INTERPOL’s resources against refugees.

China and Russia INTERPOL Appointments: Assessing the Human Rights Impact

China and Russia INTERPOL Appointments: Assessing the Human Rights Impact

In November 2016, the 85th INTERPOL General Assembly elected INTERPOL’s new president and vice-president. Mr. Meng Hongwei, a Vice Minister of Public Security and the head of the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in China, became INTERPOL’s President, and Mr. Alexander Prokopchuk, the head of the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Russia, a vice-president. The appointments raised concerns over INTERPOL’s ability to maintain its adherence to the organization’s core principles of neutrality, non-involvement in activities of a political character, and protection of individuals from member countries that use INTERPOL’s resources to persecute political opponents and other victims of unlawful criminal prosecutions. For a long time, China and Russia have been widely criticized for human rights violations. Could these appointments affect INTERPOL’s neutrality and commitment to human rights?

Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China

INTERPOL’s President heads the organization’s Executive Committee. However, it is the General Assembly, not the Executive Committee, that has the supreme authority in the organization. The General Assembly sets the standards and principles for all INTERPOL’s activities. It is composed of delegates that represent each of the 192 member countries. Each member country has one vote in the General Assembly, and a simple majority makes decisions, except when the INTERPOL Constitution requires a two-thirds majority. The General Assembly adopted INTERPOL’s Constitution, the Rules on the Processing of Data, and other fundamental texts INTERPOL must comply with. These sources require that INTERPOL act in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, strictly prohibit the organization from engaging in any activity of a political, military, religious, or racial character, and forbid member countries to use INTERPOL’s resources to persecute individuals. Under the Constitution, the Executive Committee supervises the execution of General Assembly’s decisions. It is not within the Executive Committee’s purview to repeal or change them.

The Moscow Kremlin, Russia

The Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files guards INTERPOL’s independence and adherence to human rights too. The Commission is an independent body that ensures INTERPOL’s compliance with the Constitution and other regulations. The Commission adjudicates individual requests for access to information in INTERPOL’s files and requests to delete information from the organization’s databases. Its Statute is adopted by the General Assembly and its decisions are final and binding on INTERPOL. The Executive Committee is prohibited from interfering with any of the Commission’s activities or influencing its decisions. Tasked with overseeing the implementation of the General Assembly’s decisions, it is the Executive Committee’s obligation to ensure the Commission’s independence as guaranteed by the INTERPOL Constitution.

As described in INTERPOL’s regulations, the mechanism intended to ensure INTERPOL’s neutrality, including its independence from high-ranking appointments within the organization, looks robust. Let’s hope it works.


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