Yesterday, I was fortunate to attend the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s briefing on the issue of allegations of INTERPOL Red Notice abuse. The panelists included:
Rebecca Shaeffer, Senior Legal and Policy Officer, Fair Trials
Leonard A. Homeniuk, former President and CEO, Centerra Gold Inc.
William Browder, author of Red Notice and head of the Global Justice Campaign for Sergei Magnitsky
Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights
Moderator: Liana W. Rosen, Specialist in International Crime and Narcotics, CRS
The event was hosted and attended by Representative James P. McGovern. Mr. Homeniuk and Mr. Browder described their respective experiences with INTERPOL, and the profound effect that an invalid Red Notice request can have on the lives of their subjects. Mr. Homeniuk’s story is here, and Mr. Browder’s story is here. Their cases are unusual only in that they both had the resources to fight their cases, which they both recognize is extremely unusual for most Red Notice subjects. They were both so impacted by their experiences that they have dedicated time and even more resources to advocate for INTERPOL reform.
It appears to be widely agreed that, if the United States is going to take a role in INTERPOL reform, the U.S., as one of the largest financial contributors to INTERPOL, must tie its funding of INTERPOL to specific reform actions. It also appears to be widely agreed that INTERPOL has got to stop treating all of its member countries as equals, because they are not. Some of them follow the rule of law, but many others disregard the law completely in applying for Red Notices. National Central Bureaus have to be accountable, not just in theory, but in reality. The panelists referred to the fact that INTERPOL’s rules allow for National Central Bureaus to be sanctioned for rules violations, but whether such sanctions occur is unknown to the public. It was recognized that INTERPOL has taken some steps toward reform, but much more is needed before the organization can meet its stated goal of protecting human rights.
Congratulations to Representative McGovern for getting this conversation started. It will be interesting to see how he and other members of Congress move forward on this issue.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.