Fainotizia.it: Interpol. Want(r)ed
Interpol, an organisation that coordinates state police forces in the fight against international crime, is bound by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, upon the introduction of the i-link system, each of the 190 countries that belong to it, can input the details of a wanted person into the database of the organisation, making the information instantly available to local police forces. Interpol does not investigate the content of the wanted notices, which gives some countries an opportunity to abuse the system in order to apprehend fugitive dissidents. This has contributed to a 160% increase in the number of denunciations since 2008. A large proportion come from countries which are undemocratic: Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Turkmenistan.
Arrests by surprise
When Petr Silaev, a Russian journalist, was granted political asylum in Finland in April 2012, having fled Russia, he thought he could begin a new life. But in August of the same year he found himself imprisoned in Madrid, where he faced extradition. In July 2010, Petr Silaev participated in a protest aimed at protecting the Khimki forest, during which the protesters were subjected to aggression by the police forces and as a result of which, Russian journalist Mikhail Beketov died in hospital from blows he had sustained.
When Ales Mihalevic, a candidate of the opposition in the presidential elections in Belarus in 2010, fled his country having been in danger, he was arrested by Polish airport police and faced extradition. The judges recognised the political nature of the behind the issuance of an arrest warrant and released him. “I am a free man but I cannot travel in peace because I know that my name still exists in the database of some police departments”, Mihalevic frequently said.
Benny Wenda, a West Papuan independence leader had been granted political asylum in Great Britain when he was pursued by Indonesia. The political reasons were obvious in his case, but in order for the arrest warrant to be withdrawn, it was necessary for the organisation, Fair Trials International to intervene.
What links these three cases is Interpol.
Interpol and the red notices: how do they work?
Established in 1923 and based in Lyon, Interpol supports cooperation between state police forces in their fight against crime, but its system of rules has weak points facilitating its abuse, especially with regard to the use of “Red Notices”, i.e. notices filed by some countries in connection with international arrest warrants, particularly those serious and urgent. The structure of Interpol is embedded in a legal framework that is designed to prevent the improper use of its channels: the international law and a Constitution, which specifies in articles 2 and 3 thereof that all Interpol activities comply with the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and prohibits any activity of a political, military, religious or racial nature. But there have been cases of arrest that testify to the contrary, especially due to the fact that many of the 190 member countries are ‘sham democracies’. “Interpol does not investigate the content of the wanted notices and this givessome countries anopportunity to abuse the system in order to apprehend fugitive dissidents”, explains Polish lawyer, Wojciech Madrzycki, an expert on international judicial cooperation. “We expect the organisation to conduct an exacting investigation, but in reality, at least as far the Red Notices are concerned, it limits itself to an exclusively physical role: capturing the wanted person”, adds lawyer, Ernesto Gregorio Valenti, despite the existence of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL'sFiles (CCF) to which one can appeal in case of any aberrations or abuses. Moreover, by means of the i-link system that was implemented in 2009, a country can input the personal details of a wanted person directly into the database of Interpol, rendering their details instantly accessible by police forces in the member countries. These pieces of information await validation by the General Secretariat, but the fact that they become instantly accessible to state police forces creates a problem with regard to data protection.
The risk of abuses
The system has contributed to a considerable increase in the number of apprehension requests. This is confirmed by the latest report of the organisation Fair Trials International, entitled ‘Strengthening for human rights’: in 2012, the organisation published 8,132 denunciations: a 160% increase compared to 2008, and a large element of these originated in countries in where severe restrictions on civil and political freedoms exist: Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Turkmenistan. There is alsoa communication problem. As the report produced by Fair Trials International explains: even though the organisation cancels wanted notices which it considers to be groundless, this does not mean that the police departments in all the member states do the same. Subsequently, a person saved from extradition in one country is not automatically protected in another country should he or she decide to move, which is particularly noticeable within the boundaries of the European Union. “I know of more than 250 Turkish and Kurdish activists who have found refuge in Europe and still have problems with Interpol”, recounts Ali Caglayan, a Turkish dissident having sought refuge in Germany. Moreover, a lot of people learn that they have been the subject of a red notice only after they have been arrested. From this moment on, there begins a slow judicial procedure that can mean they are held in prison for prolonged period. This is what happened to Henk Tepper, a Canadian potato farmer, imprisoned for one year in Lebanon as a result of a red notice issued by Algieria, following a shipment of rotten potatoes.
Recently, Mukhtar Ablyazov has been the subject of many news articles; a Kazakh political opponent apprehended in France, now facing extradition, and his associate, Alexander Pavlov, one of the major critics of the Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazabayev. The extradition of the latter has been authorised by the Spanish court Audiencia Nacional, and today, as is customary, only the Minister of Justice can prevent it going ahead. But Spain is also the only country in the European Union to have signed an extradition treaty with Kazakhstan. Pavlov is accused of conspiring to commit terrorist activities “with regard to which, there is no evidence”, explains Antonio Stango, the Secretary General of the Italian Helsinki Committee of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and a member of the Transnational Radical Party. There are present, however, all elements which point to political persecution. ”In Astana, Pavlov will be at risk of being subjected to torture and an erratic trial“, adds Anna Koj from the Polish foundation Open Dialog; on the front line in the defence of the rights of political prisoners. Also her colleagues, the authors of the report entitled 'On misuse of the Interpol system', explain that in addition to the accusations of terrorism, those of a general economic nature are treated more favourably when it comes to securing an arrest warrant which is politically motivated, as they require coorborative support which is significantly inferior to crimes of a different nature.
Authors: Serena GRASSIA
Résumé:: Lorenzo ASCIONE
Credits: Antonio STANGO, the Secretary General of the Italian Helsinki Committee of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
- More details: Convention "The system of the Interpol’s ‘red notices’ and their abuses for political aims"
21ODF addresses the new UNHCR on issue of political refugees
07The list of Kazakh dissidents, their families and colleagues persecuted with the use of INTERPOL in the European Union in 2012-15
02Ingancio Sanchez Amor in defence of Ablyazov: Appeal to the French government
24French slate.fr on Ablyazov's trial
15Statement from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Mukhtar Ablyazov
Ablyazov’s memories: how he dropped out of school and got into business
Mukhtar Ablyazov with family
Mukhtar Ablyazov: Prison Camp Experience
The Italian television channel ‘TG1’ about the kidnapping of Ablyazov’s family members
Akorda’s political hostages
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