Libero: The use of Interpol in the hunt for dissidents
© 08.05.2014

Non-democratic states use the new system ‘i-link’ for notification and to secure the arrests of inconvenient persons and dissidents.

Named ‘i-link’, it is a system by means of which, the 180 countries that belong to Interpol can add a wanted person to the database of the organisation, making the information instantly accessible to numerous police forces. It is a shame that, in reality, the system has become a tool used in the hunt for dissidents rather than a means of combatting international crime. Indeed, as Interpol does not investigate the contents of the wanted notices issued, abuses of the tool are commonplace. Since 2008, the number of international notifications has increased by 160%. The majority of them come from the countries which have nothing to do with democracy: Belarus, Russia, Turkey, to name just a few. Not to mention that it seems to be difficult to be exonerated from the “red notice”. It’s possible that a person already under arrest in a country belonging to the organisation continues to exist in the database of Interpol and, even more frequently, in the records of police departments of the member states. Consequently, as the guarantees of the system are not very reassuring, a person, once released for any reason may have to contend with an outstanding, valid arrest warrant. This sword of Damocles hangs precariously therefore not only due to political influences but also technical grounds.

One example? Perhaps the most famous one, that of Mukhtar Ablyazov, a Kazakh political dissident, who, charged with financial crimes, has been locked up in the French prisons since last July. It is economic crimes (above all, money laundering) which are used as a cover to justify the recourse to an international arrest warrant of a political opponent. Cases in which one explicitly points to terrorism are rare: with regard to these, however, member states have no qualms and being sensitive to the argument, generally do not ask further questions but initiate the arrest procedures. This carries the risk of extradition, which should not be underestimated. As in Ablyazov’s case, the request for extradition was at one point submitted by Ukraine governed by Yanukovych and Russia ruled by Putin, which put Hollande’s government in an awkward situation, to say the least. And yet, both international law and the Constitution of Interpol ban political, military, religious and racist activities and comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The same human rights are supposed to protect also, or perhaps above all, political refugees and render the international judicial system an assurance of justice and transparency. In reality, however, many people do not find out they are on the Interpol “black list” (or better – on the “red list”) until the time of their arrest. This triggers a judicial procedure that certainly cannot be labelled ‘clear’. Hank Tepper, a Canadian farmer, who spent one year in the prisons of Lebanon as a result of an arrest warrant issued by Algeria that charged him with shipping rotten potatoes, is all too familiar with the problem. In his case, it was still better than in others’. On his return to Canada, he was able sue his own government: it had not defended his basic rights. How about that!

Claudia Osmetti

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