‘Interpol misused to punish opponents’
Interpol supposed to chase criminals across borders is being used by some countries including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Russia and Venezuela to punish political dissenters and opponents, a new investigation done by a Washington-based journalists’ consortium finds.
“What our investigation found is that Interpol’s Red Notice system is being abused by regimes like Iran and Venezuela, which use it to round up political opponents,” said Marina Walker Guevara, deputy director at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The investigation which includes case studies from a number of countries also shows how the international police agency remains unaccountable to any deep scrutiny. ICIJ found “Interpol’s operations for dealing with political cases lack transparency, and there is no system for outside oversight or accountability.”
Interpol, it says, helps police hunt down murderers, war criminals, child sex offenders and wildlife poachers across borders. “But the global law enforcement organisation is also being used to pursue political opponents of regimes in countries like Iran and Venezuela,” it claims.
ICIJ analysed Interpol’s Red Notice and public alert programmes, used to flag persons wanted in connection with crimes in specific countries. It includes 7,622 notices issued at the request of 145 countries. About a quarter of those were from nations deemed to have no political rights or civil liberties. Nearly half were from nations deemed corrupt by international transparency observers. Among ICIJ’s findings, at least 17 countries have used Interpol to pursue political opponents or cases where judges have found political motives in the past five years.
In case of Iran, it says, it used Interpol to go after at least a dozen political dissidents who have been living in Sweden and other European countries for years — all of them political refugees. Russia has used Interpol to pursue at least a dozen business people linked to Putin political opponent and oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky — and his former oil business, Yukos. Many of them have received political asylum, based on Russia’s pursuit, or a judge has deemed their cases “politically motivated” and refused to extradite them.
Venezuela issued so many Red Notices against political opponents of President Hugo Chavez that Interpol has recently blocked two dozen of them. ICIJ learned Interpol now vets Venezuela’s requests more carefully.
Sri Lanka used Interpol to go after the owner of a website that publishes articles critical of the government. China used Interpol to target Uighur political leader Dolkun Isa, whom Germany had designated as a political refugee.
The Asian Age