In the previous post, we considered why local authorities had not sought a Yellow Notice in the case of Milton Keynes resident Leah Croucher. Ms. Croucher disappeared when she was 19 years old and has now beein missing since 2019.

Although there is currently no basis for believing that she travelled internationally, INTERPOL does not require proof of international travel in order to issue a Yellow Notice. In addition to the requirements discussed in the previous post, INTERPOL provides its criteria for issuing a Yellow Notice in Article 90 of its Rules on the Processing of Data:

Article 90: Yellow notices
(1) Yellow notices are published to locate a missing person or to identify a person unable to identify himself/herself.

(2) Yellow notices may only be published under the following conditions:
(a) The person’s disappearance or discovery has been reported to and recorded by the police;
(b) The whereabouts of the missing person or the identity of the discovered person are unknown to the police;
(c) If the person is an adult, applicable national privacy laws do not prevent a request being made;
(d) Sufficient data on a person or the circumstances surrounding the disappearance or discovery of the person are provided for his/her identification.

(3) A yellow notice may only be published if it provides sufficient identifiers. Sufficient identifiers mean at least:
(a) If it concerns a missing person:
(i) the family name, forename, sex, date of birth (at least the year); and
(ii) physical description, a photograph of good quality, DNA profile or fingerprints;
(b) If it concerns a person who is unable to identify him/herself:
(i) physical description, sex of the person; and
(ii) photograph of good quality, fingerprints or DNA profile.

Thus, in the case of any missing person, the police report, the person’s last known location, and the information surrounding the person’s disappearance is the information required to issue a Yellow Notice.

What would be accomplished by issuing a Yellow Notice is that any authorities who happen to come into contact with a missing person would be able to identify and assist the person, even if s/he is unable to take action on her or his own behalf.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

I recently ran across this article by journalist Sally Murrer. The author does a sound job of parsing out the differences between a case of a domestic investigation regarding a missing person versus that of an international search. Murrer noted that, in the case of Leah Croucher, who disappeared in 2019 at the age of 19, some observers wondered why her name did not appear on a list of missing persons who were the subjects of Yellow Notices.

The question is a valid one, and the response requires a bit of education on the purpose and reach of a Yellow Notice. INTERPOL issues these notices when one of its 195 member countries requests assistance from INTERPOL in finding a person who has been listed by law enforcement officials as missing. INTERPOL reports that in 2020, it issued 2,554 Yellow Notices, and it describes Yellow Notices as follows:

A Yellow Notice is a global police alert for a missing person. It is published for victims of parental abductions, criminal abductions (kidnappings) or unexplained disappearances.

The Yellow Notice can also be used to help identify a person who is unable to identify himself or herself.

This is a valuable law enforcement tool that can increase the chances of a missing person being located, particularly if there is a possibility that the person might travel, or be taken, abroad.

In the case of Ms. Croucher, local authorities explained that they had not requested a Yellow Notice in the case of Ms. Croucher because there was “no evidence to suggest she left the UK.” While a Yellow Notice is most commonly utilized in cases of suspected international travel, INTERPOL’s rules do not necessarily require that travel abroad has already occurred in order for such a notice to be issued.

Rather, the rules require that a Yellow Notice, like any notice, not be issued unless it is of interest for the “purposes of international police cooperation.” Thus, while international travel is certainly contemplated in realtion to the issuance of a Yellow Notice, it is not expressly required to be established prior to one being issued.

The other absolute requirements for a Yellow Notice to be issued are set forth in INTERPOL’s Rules on the Processing of Data. We will address that in the next post.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

INTERPOL’s annual General Assembly is underway, and by the end of Thursday, a new president of INTERPOL will have been elected. Based in part on INTERPOL’s candid responses to RNLJ’s questions regarding the organization’s funding, we await the election to learn whether, or to what extent, a member country’s indirect donations to INTERPOL might affect its influence over the organization.

INTERPOL’s rules require that its funding be transparent, and it does list its funding sources in its public reports.  However, in an in-depth report earlier this year, Sir David Calvert-Smith, along with Rhys Davies and Ben Keith, addressed the fact that one of INTERPOL’s funding sources, the  INTERPOL Foundation for a Safer World, provides donations from sources with unknown origins. They noted that the sole source of those donations appears to be the UAE, but that information is not made public.  Ultimately, the report concluded that:

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the Interpol Foundation for a Safer World’s sole purpose is to be a channel by which to funnel cash from the UAE government into Interpol. Whether or not the channelling of this money into Interpol is an attempt to buy influence by the UAE is perhaps a different issue. Nonetheless, the links between Interpol and the Interpol Foundation are clear, as are the links between the UAE and the Interpol Foundation.

When RNLJ inquired directly with INTERPOL in September of 2021 regarding precisely who funded the Foundation, and who within the UAE provided the UAE’s donations to the Foundation, INTERPOL’s spokesperson responded, stating:

All of the funding from the Foundation to INTERPOL is from the EUR 50 million donation over a five year period (from 2017) by the United Arab Emirates …

It is the Foundation which receives the funds directly from the UAE government, and the General Secretariat does not have specific details from which Ministry or other body the donation is received each year.

[Emphasis supplied.]

The UAE made its statutorially mandated contribution as a member country in 2017, 2018, and 2019, in the amount of roughly €231,000 each year. The donation it made to the Foundation over that time period, therefore, is exponentially larger than the amount it or any other member country was required to provide.

What does the UAE obtain in return for its donation? No doubt some satisfaction in knowing that it has helped fund multiple INTERPOL projects such as anti-drug trafficking and counter-terrorism initiatives that were identified by INTERPOL’s spokesperson.

Perhaps that is all. Or perhaps the UAE’s donations to the Foundation have given the UAE other benefits, one of which may be a considerable leg up in its bid for presidency of INTERPOL.

The UAE is pressing for one of its own to serve as the next president of INTERPOL. This candidacy has raised serious concerns throughout the international community, causing established, well-respected non-governmental organizations and media outlets, such as the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights, L’Action des Chrétiens Pour l’Abolition de la Torture, ALQST for Human Rights, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Association for Victims of Torture in UAE, CIVICUS, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, The Freedom Initiative, Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights First, International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE, International Centre for Justice and Human Rights, International Service for Human Rights, MENA Rights Group, L’Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (OMCT), Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties, UnidOSC, Forbes, The Guardian, and the Associated Press to speak out regarding the potential harm that could result if he were elected.

The candidate, Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi, is Inspector General of the UAE’s Interior Ministry and has been accused in multiple instances (see links above) of either directly overseeing or being responsible for illegal and arbitrary detentions, torture, persecution of peaceful critics, forcible disappearance of lawyers, journalists, and activitsts.

INTERPOL’s nomination and election process is generally opaque, with candidates not being officially announced until the time for the vote, which is expected to occur this Thursday, the final day of the General Assembly. It was precisely this hazy-from-the-outside process that motivated Fair Trials Internationals to openly publish a letter last year, urging INTERPOL to make its election process more transparent.

With such an intense, diverse, and unified choir of voices objecting to Al-Raisi’s candidacy, it is difficult to account for what the motivation might be to allow his nomination to move forward, but the optics certainly don’t exclude a pay-to-play methodology.

INTERPOL has made significant strides in the last decade to demonstrate a commitment to improve its enforcement of human rights principles, to hold its members accountable when they have acted outside the bounds of their mutual obligations to the rule of law, and to implement substantive and procedural mechanisms needed for a legitimate law enforcement support organization to function with credibility on the international stage.

The election of a president from a member country that has consistently violated human and due process rights while simultaneously making a grossly outsized donation to INTERPOL would serve to undermine INTERPOL’s advances towards transparency, credibility, and independence.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

The 89th annual meeting of the Interpol General Assembly began today and runs through November 25, 2021, in Istanbul, Turkey. As last year’s meeting was postponed due to the pandemic, a plethora of issues are to be handled, and Turkish officials seem keen to offer assurance that they are up to the task.

The country’s deputy foreign minister Yavuz Selim Kiran said in an interview, “By hosting Interpol’s 89th General Assembly Meeting, we will once again confirm our will to manage our relations with the agency with a constructive approach. We will convey our approach in the fight against terrorism at the highest level” (Emin Avundukluoglu).

This statement likely refers to the failed coup orchestrated by The Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) against Turkey on July 15, 2016. It was the fourth military coup in Turkey’s 95-year political history, and it resulted in the death of 251 while 2,734 were injured. The Turkish government is convinced that Fethullah Gulen, a preacher and businessman in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, is behind the coup. Gulen is the leader of a movement known as Hizmet, which owns a multitude of organizations, including foundations and schools in Turkey and abroad. A corruption investigation in December 2013, in which renowned businesspeople and senior bureaucrats were arrested by Gulenist police officers, gave way to an all-out war between the government and the Hizmet movement. Gulen, on the other hand, denies any role in the coup and has alleged that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, orchestrated it himself “to build a dictatorship.”

Minister Kiran noted that Turkey’s hosting of the assembly “will contribute to our international visibility in the fight against global terrorism and cross-border crime.” “Unfortunately, our relations with Interpol are not at the desired level due to the hesitant attitude of the agency in cooperation with our country after the treacherous coup attempt on July 15,” he added.

The reason for the tension between Turkey and INTERPOL extends beyond the failed coup in Turkey. A source within the Turkish government reportedly noted  that, [s]ince the coup attempt, officials have seen hundreds of requests for extradition generated for people who couldn’t possibly have been involved in the coup itself beyond being political critics of the current regime, and that Many EU countries are ignoring these requests.

Turkey’s motivation for filing some Red Notices seem to be politically driven and not entirely lawful. “The Turkish government has a poor reputation for its abuse of Interpol’s red notices as well as its Stolen and Lost Travel Documents system,” said Aykan Erdemir, a Turkish analyst and critic of the current regime with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Turkey has issued warrants, arrested, detained, or placed under a travel ban against more than 100,000 people since the coup attempt. It has also pushed for official extradition or unofficial rendition of hundreds of others, often for merely supporting Fethullah Gulen. This is concerning given the clear record of human rights violations happening in Turkey. According to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund of Turkey, in a year’s time, the government had seized 796 businesses worth an estimated 61.2 billion lira ($7.85 billion) since the 2016 coup attempt. Concerns about Turkish abuse of Red Notices were cited by the European Commission, which issued a statement in response to a letter from Fair Trials International calling “first and foremost for INTERPOL and its member countries to address weaknesses in the system and put in place the necessary measures to prevent such abuse of INTERPOL’s procedures.”

An optimist might advocate for holding the General Assembly in Turkey as a means of encouraging the improvement of human rights protections through example and inclusion. A pessimist might observe that an international law enforcement organization risks being judged by the company it keeps. A realist might note that both of these ideas hold validity.

In the next post, we’ll address the conflict that a UAE-influenced INTERPOL will encounter, and whether that conflict has already begun.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Thanks to contributing guest author Daniela Gomez, Florida International University, B.A. Candidate August 2022. 

 

 

Josh Jacobs and The Guardian took a deep dive into the world of repressive regimes that have become chronic abusers of INTERPOL’s Red Notice system. Michelle Estlund had the pleasure of speaking with him in his preparation for his article, found here.

Along with multiple examples of Red Notice abuse by various countries, Jacobs also provides insight on the prospect of an apparent frontrunner for INTERPOL’s next President, Ahmed Naser al-Raisi. Mr. al-Raisi hails from the UAE, and heads a “state security apparatus that has imprisoned dissidents and misused Interpol’s red notices.”

The presidency will be decided at this month’s General Assembly, and the issues surrounding that meeting will be the focus of RNLJ’s next several posts.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Update: On 06 Oct. 2021, RNLJ received confirmation from INTERPOL that “no Red Notice request for Ms. Rewcastle Brown has been received by the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters, nor has any wanted person diffusion been sent via INTERPOL’s channels,” and that Fair Trials has been advised of this information. INTERPOL’s recognition of this case as one of significant public interest is appreciated.

______

One of the most critical forms of evidence used to identify and prove human and due process rights violations is the information contained in reports by investigative journalists. We rely on such evidence to tell us the truth about governmental activity, corrupt processes, and scandals that would otherwise remain hidden from view.

We have reached a point in time where true investigative journalism is in jeopardy. Investigative journalists are increasingly finding themselves the targets of oppressive regimes, retaliatory prosecutions, intimidation tactics, death threats, and physical attacks or even murder.

This week, three leading human rights and due process rights organizations spoke out publicly in support of one investigative journalist who has been targeted by the government of Malaysia in the past, and who appears to be the subject of a new case. Fair Trials International, Index on Censorship, and Article 19 have published a public request for INTERPOL to clarify its position with respect to the case of Clare Rewcastle Brown. Their letter to INTERPOL, found here, recounts the history of her case and the current reasons for concern:

“… Ms Rewcastle Brown is a British journalist known for exposing high-level corruption involving the former Prime Minister of Malaysia …, as the founder and editor-in-chief of the Sarawak Report. She faced charges shortly after the publication of the exposes for ‘activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy’, which formed the basis of a Red Notice request by the Malaysian NCB. Responding to Fair Trials’ letter from August 2015 expressing concerns that the Red Notice would likely violate INTERPOL’s rules, you responded to confirm that although the Red Notice request had been received, it was refused by the General Secretariat. We have recently been contacted by Ms Rewcastle Brown, who informed us that as of 23 September, she is subject to a new arrest warrant in Malaysia. According to media reports, she is being sought to face criminal defamation charges brought by the wife of the Sultan of Terengganu regarding statements made about her in Ms Rewcastle Brown’s 2018 book about the 1MDB scandal. We have serious concerns that the Malaysian NCB has attempted or is in the process of attempting to use INTERPOL’s systems once again to seek her arrest.”

These organizations and their representatives – Bruno Min, Jessica Ní Mhainín, and Sarah Clarke, respectively- are providing INTERPOL with the opportunity to publicly condemn the efforts of any INTERPOL member country that seeks to abuse its access to INTERPOL for repressive, illegal purposes.

If INTERPOL acts in a manner that is consistent with its past decisions in this case and other cases that violate international freedom of press standards, it will refuse to become involved in the case. If the organization deems this case to be publicly significant, it will also make a clear statement of its intention to remain uninvolved in the case.

As for Ms. Rewcastle Brown, her statement to Time in a 2018 interview sums up the likely reason for Malaysia’s current actions:

“If a government is overreacting in this way and treating you as such a dangerous threat, then you know that you are doing your job.”

We look forward to INTERPOL’s response and we owe Ms. Rewcastle Brown and her NGO advocates a debt of gratitude for their actions dedicated to the protection of freedom of the press, human rights, and due process.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Red Notice removal requests are often strengthened by collaborative efforts between the attorney who is preparing the removal request and the attorney who represents or represented the client in the country where the notice was issued.

The case of a recent client highlights the benefit of international collaboration between attorneys when a client is facing an INTERPOL Red Notice. We were successful in removing a client’s Red Notice for a case that was filed in Belgium after being  investigated primarily in India. Our success was due in part to the fact that our client agreed to take a comprehensive approach to his case and engage local counsel in Belgium; our client’s Belgian attorney, Hans Van de Wal, provided support for the elements of our case that required a thorough understanding of Belgian criminal law from the perspective of an experienced, local attorney.

When reviewing the case of a Red Notice subject to determine whether a viable claim for removal of the Red Notice exists, multiple aspects of the underlying criminal case must be considered, including questions of domestic law, such as:

  • Were any laws violated in the country where the underlying criminal case was filed?
  • If so, what evidence exists of those violations?
  • Will the most efficient means of proving those violations include expert testimony, domestic attorney testimony, submission of domestic law articles, or a combination of these forms of proof, along with the evidence that was submitted in the court?

Even in cases where the client has been found guilty in domestic court, the attorney from that country can be instrumental in providing proof of the violations of due process and substantive legal provisions of the originating country, and that proof can form a basis for the removal of the Red Notice.

When attorneys utilize their strengths and areas of expertise to challenge a Red Notice, the client benefits from a thorough, comprehensive approach, thus increasing the likelihood of success with the CCF.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

In the last post, we focused on China’s abuse of INTERPOL’s Red Notice system and targeting of Uyghur activist Yidiresi Aisha.  INTERPOL has reportedly blocked the Red Notice while it reviews Aisha’s case, but should we expect this case to change China’s behavior? Probably not.

It is extremely unlikely that the international attention and criticism of the Aisha case will discourage China’s future Red Notice abuse in cases against the Uyghurs for several reasons, including the following:

  1. We know from Chinese president Xi Jinping’s recent comments that Chinese officials are fully aware of international condemnation of China’s human rights violations and that China’s leadership is unswayed by such criticism. He said in a speech in June:
    “We will not accept sanctimonious preaching from those who feel they have the right to lecture us,” he said. “We have never bullied, oppressed, or subjugated the people of any other country, and we never will… By the same token, we will never allow anyone to bully, oppress, or subjugate [China]. Anyone who tries will find them on a collision course with a steel wall forged by 1.4 billion people.”
  2. The Xinjiang region was annexed by China in 1949. It was formerly known as East Turkestan and is culturally very different from other parts of China. Many of its residents still refer to it as East Turkestan. Most Uyghurs are Muslim, and just under half of Xinjiang’s residents are Uyghurs. Being a practicing Muslim apparently violates President Xi Jinping’s 2017 order that all religions in China should be Chinese in orientation. With activists alleging that “… China is trying to eradicate Uyghur culture,” and the president dictating that Chinese culture must be dominant, the two views cannot be expected to co-exist peacefully.
  3. The Xinjiang region is simply too resource-rich to expect that China would minimize or even reduce any control over it. The region contains oil, mineral, and natural gas resources and is a major component of China’s Belt and Road initiative, which is critical to China’s long-term economic vision. Maintaining power over the speech and acts of the Uyghur population is an element of maintaining power over the region as a whole.

Unless INTERPOL undertakes its own initiative to more thoroughly scrutinize Red Notice requests from China, we should anticipate that China will continue to misuse its access to INTERPOL’s tools as a means of oppressing dissidents and political opponents.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

INTERPOL’s CCF continues to receive requests to remove Chinese dissidents and political opponents from the organization’s wanted list.

While such requests often concern former government officials who have run afoul of the Chinese Communist Party, a recent report highlights the case of Yidiresi Aishan, a private citizen and Uyghur activist. Aishan is in exile from China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group primarily from China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Aishan is a 34-year-old computer engineer and father of three who had resided in Turkey since 2012. He was reportedly employed as a web designer who also worked on a Uyghur diaspora online newspaper and assisted other activists in media outreach and collecting testimonies of abuse in China’s Xinjiang province.

The CCF (Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files) has blocked the Red Notice for Yidiresi Aishan as reported here.

INTERPOL reportedly commented on the case, stating:

“Given that new information has been brought to the attention of the General Secretariat, the red notice previously issued for Yidiresi Aishan has been suspended while a new review is undertaken.”

The persecution and illegal detention of Uyghur minorities in China have been well-documented since 2017. While Chinese authorities initially denied the existence of detention camps where Uyghurs were being held, in 2019 it issued a statement categorizing the camps as “Vocational Education and Training” facilities, claiming that the camps were necessary to combat “terrorism and extremism” in China and justifying them as follows:

Xinjiang is a key battlefield in the fight against terrorism and extremism in China. For some time Xinjiang has been plagued by terrorism and religious extremism, which pose a serious threat to the lives of the people in the region. Addressing both the symptoms and root causes and integrating preventative measures and a forceful response, Xinjiang has established vocational education and training centers in accordance with the law to prevent the breeding and spread of terrorism and religious extremism, effectively curbing the frequent terrorist incidents and protecting the rights to life, health, and development of the people of all ethnic groups. Worthwhile results have been achieved.

In light of this statement, it appears that Chinese authorities have no plans to change their approach to governing Xinjiang or the Uyghur population.

In the next post, we’ll address the political and economic reasons that we should expect to see China’s continued efforts to keep a stronghold on the Xinjian region.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

INTERPOL’s CCF (the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files) has begun issuing its decisions from the most recent session.

The most recent session was held from 28 June through 2 July, and we began receiving decisions last week. The new decisions show:

  • The CCF is continuing to thoroughly examine the claims in the Red Notice removal requests that it receives. The decisions reflect an understanding of the claims made and an analysis of the evidence presented.
  • The Commission is also demanding substantive responses from the NCBs involved in the cases. Where the NCB’s response consists of mere assurances that proper procedure was followed, the Commission is not satisfied.
  • In cases where political motivation is alleged, the CCF continues to demonstrate reluctance to decide a request based solely on that argument. Instead, it makes a full analysis of all arguments presented and issues a decision based on the totality of the circumstances. The decision may or may not make an express finding regarding the political motivation issue.
  • On the other hand, where a decision can be issued based on a single argument other than political motivation, the Commission is making the decision on that basis and declining to analyze the remaining arguments.

The approach described in the last two points above is similar to the doctrine of constitutional avoidance, wherein U.S. courts avoid interpreting the Constitution as a means of also avoiding controversial or sensitive issues unless absolutely necessary. When the CCF can properly dispose of a disputed case without avoid calling into question the political motivation of one of its member countries, it appears to be doing so. In some cases, however, the political nature of a case is such that it must be addressed or other grounds for removal do not exist or are unclear. In those situations, the CCF is calling balls and strikes as needed.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.