Tag: China

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.

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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