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.

INTERPOL recently launched an app that will help identify stolen cultural property and increase the recovery of stolen works and artifacts.  The app will be able to be used by law enforcement agencies as well as the general public.

“Using international standards known as Object ID, museums and private collectors can capture images and record features of their works of art on the App to help keep track of their collections. In the event of a theft, these records can be provided to law enforcement, greatly enhancing the chances of recovery,”

said INTERPOL in a statement. Users will be able to access INTERPOL’s database of stolen works of art and therefore will be able to cross-check if an object has been registered as stolen. The app also allows for the recording of geographical location. “The resulting ‘site cards’ can then be used as evidence or basis for reconstruction if ever the site is looted or destroyed,” it said.

This app will be particularly helpful in preventing a potential buyer from becoming a potential Red Notice subject because they can use the app to avoid illegal activity. After downloading the app, they will be able to insert the item they would like to purchase to find out whether it has been listed on the database of stolen cultural property. This will allow buyers to avoid illegal activity that may have otherwise occurred, unbeknownst to them.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

*Thanks for today’s post to contributing author Fabiola Meo, J.D. Candidate, 2022.

In the last post, we addressed illegal antiquity sales, thefts, and the manner in which different countries address those issues. Given that antiquity sales and theft often involve cross-border transactions, INTERPOL may be involved in furthering the prosecution of these transactions. Red Notice subjects who are wanted for antiquities theft or illegal antiquities sale may find themselves facing charges in one country, while another country does not view the alleged actions as criminal. For this reason, it pays to be aware of the various antiquities reclamation activities around the world.

In addition to aiding in the prosecution of antiquity-related crimes, INTERPOL has played a role in reclaiming antiquities. It has assisted in the recovery of many artifacts over the years and has launched various systems to help disrupt the trade of stolen cultural objects. For example, in May of this year, INTERPOL was part of Operation Pandora V., where 56,400 cultural goods were seized and 67 were arrested. Participating countries included France, Greece, Italy, the Slovak Republic, and Spain.

INTERPOL’S approach to antiquities theft is clearly stated in its article entitled, How we Fight Cultural Heritage Crime. INTERPOL believes that “[i]llicit trafficking in cultural property is a transnational crime. Fighting this crime therefore requires international cooperation, which can be facilitated by easily accessible data.”

INTERPOL’s role is to help tackle the theft and trafficking of cultural heritage and works of art. INTERPOL maintains a global database of stolen works of art and supports member countries in their international investigations that help identify and disrupt the criminals behind the destruction of cultural heritage sites. However, information from certain countries is limited and does not fully reflect the total number of stolen works of art worldwide. Countries send INTERPOL information about stolen or trafficked items. INTERPOL then analyses this data and enters it into the Works of Art Database. INTERPOL experts can also add value to the information received.

Additionally, INTERPOL analyzes emerging trends in art thefts such as the proliferation of counterfeit, faked or forged works, or the use of the internet for selling works of dubious background. Many countries do not have police units specializing in cultural property or national databases of stolen items, so INTERPOL encourages this, to make its global network stronger.

In the next post, we’ll review the app that INTERPOL has developed to improve its ability to help identify and recover the stolen cultural property.

*Thanks for today’s post to contributing author Fabiola Meo, J.D. Candidate, 2022.

 

Every country has a different policy in regard to its antiquities and whether they should be returned to the country from which they originated. For example, the government of the Netherlands suggests that looted art should be returned to former colonies. Australia has no laws directly governing repatriation, but there is a government program relating to the return of Aboriginal remains and artifacts. This program “supports the repatriation of ancestral remains and secret sacred objects to their communities of origin to help promote healing and reconciliation” and assists community representatives in working towards the repatriation of remains in various ways. Museums have also considered returning various artifacts from Africa. Countries such as Greece, Israel, India, Morocco, Italy, and Egypt have all sought to repatriate various objects that were being displayed in various museums. Each country’s policy is different:

For countries such as Egypt, where antiquity sales are considered to be illegal, INTERPOL may become involved because such sales are often transnational, thus requiring international cooperation. Criminal allegations of antiquity sales and theft may become the grounds for a Red Notice. In the next post, we’ll discuss INTERPOL’s role in reclaiming antiquities.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

*Thanks for today’s post to contributing author Fabiola Meo, J.D. Candidate, 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For an in-depth look at INTERPOL abuse, trends, and responsive strategies for practitioners, please see my recently published article in the International Enforcement Law Reporter entitled, “INTERPOL’s Expanding Reach, Use, and Consequences: A Global Survey of Abuse Techniques by Some INTERPOL Member Countries and Effective Response Strategies,” found here.  Many thanks to my co-author, Adriana Obeso.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Join us tomorrow for the event below:

What happens when the organization meant to fight crime helps criminal regimes?

Interpol, the international organization of police agencies, has been manipulated by autocracies into an instrument of transnational repression. Join Heritage on May 18 to learn how we can end this abuse: https://www.heritage.org/global-politics/event/virtual-event-ending-interpol-abuse-how-the-democratic-world-can-fight

See you there.

 

On May 18, at 11am EST, Dr. Ted Bromund of the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation will host a virtual event featuring the following panelists:

  • Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)
  • Nate Schenkkan (Freedom House)
  • Ben Keith (5SAH)
  • Michelle Estlund (Estlund Law, P.A.)
  • Paul Massaro (US Helsinki Commission) on the issue of transnational repression with a focus on Interpol abuse.

You can register for this event at: https://www.heritage.org/global-politics/event/virtual-ending-interpol-abuse-how-the-democratic-world-can-fight.

A critical concern for people who have successfully applied to remove their Red Notices from INTERPOL’s Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files is the question of what will happen if the member country makes another request for a Red Notice at a later time.

The removal of a Red Notice often follows a lengthy preparation and waiting process. Clients often cannot fathom the idea of going through the process yet again. However, it has been my experience and observation that repeat requests for Red Notices are rare, and while it is possible that they could be granted, they usually are not.

For example, the media recently reported that officials in India had attempted – for the third time- to obtain a Red Notice against Indian Islamic preacher and television evangelist Zakir Naik. Although the successive requests contained slightly different information than the original request, all of them were denied. INTERPOL recognized that the underlying basis for the charges was essentially the same.

There have been times when member countries have circumvented the approval process that is required for Red Notices and instead issued diffusions, as happened to famed financier and now political activist Bill Browder. In that situation, INTERPOL caught the diffusion after Russia had issued it and removed the diffusion on its own. While this type of activity is disconcerting to potential or prior Red Notice subjects, it does appear to be rare.

Individuals who believe that a member country may repeat a Red Notice or a diffusion request would do well to stay abreast of new court or political developments related to their cases, and to remain in communication with INTEPROL regarding the status of those cases.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.