A reader commented on February 12 as follows regarding an old post regarding Venezuela’s Red Notice history:

Your animus towards Venezuela (or towards the Chavez Govt.) is misplaced, given the malfeasance of other INTERPOL member states.  The judge you mention, Maria Lourdes Afiun, did not merely dismiss charges against a corrupt Venezuelan banker (which she was not entitled to do), she also ushered him out of her courtroom via a back door where an accomplice was waiting to spirit him away on a motorcycle.

This is hardly acceptable judicial practice.  And Lourdes Afiun is not incarcerated; she is under house arrest.

Neither Lourdes Afiun nor the banker in question face the death penalty – unlike Hamza Kashgari, detained yesterday in Kuala Lumput at INTERPOL’s request, on behalf of the Saudi Theorcrates.  Kashgari faces extradition, torture, and death at the hands of the Sauds, thanks to INTERPOL.  His crime?  Tweeting about the Prophet (pbuh).”

Hmmm.  Where to start?  First, I would probably characterize my writings as criticism of the Venezuelan government rather than animus.  But let’s say we go with animus:  “hostile spirit or angry temperment.”  I’m not sure such an attitude would be inappropriate given Venezuela’s use of INTERPOL’s tools.

Second, while it is true that the judge discussed in the post is now on house arrest, it is also true that she was incarcerated until February of last year, when the post was written. 

More to the reader’s point, however, is the idea that such criticism, or animus, might better be directed at those member countries engaged in even worse abuses than Venezuela.  The reader focuses on Hamza Kashgari, who is wanted by Saudi Arabia, and who now has reportedly been extradited to Saudi Arabia.  There were initial reports that INTERPOL aided in that extradition, but INTERPOL has repeatedly denied any involvement in Mr. Kashgari’s case.

As already pointed out by Fair Trials International leader Jago Russell, any involvement by INTERPOL in Mr. Kashgari’s case would be inappropriate.  INTERPOL’s constitution prohibits it from taking a role in any matter of a religious nature, as Article 3 provides that:

“It is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.”  

At this point, it is unclear why the Malaysian police would have indicated that INTERPOL was involved in the case.  Reuters has reported that Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has now clarified that INTERPOL did not, in fact, have a role in this extradition, and that when the police said otherwise this past Friday, it was a mistake. 

Minister Hussein also stated that Malaysia will not allow itself to be used as a safe haven by terrorists or other wanted people.  In choosing to use Mr. Kashgari as an example of this policy, Malaysia has brought into serious question its dedication to human rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Its actions stand in stark contrast to its statement in 2006 when it applied to the United Nations Human Rights Council: 

“Consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), successive Malaysian Governments have made the guarantee of the individual’s fundamental rights and liberties, as enshrined in the Constitution, the cornerstone of its policies and programmes . . . “

So at this point it appears that we have two INTERPOL member countries acting outside their capacities as member countries.  Any criticism of either country, however deserved, would be unrelated to their status as member countries.

I will say, though, that I agree with the reader on the premise that abusive INTERPOL member countries should continue to be criticized and held accountable for their INTERPOL-related activities.  I would simply stretch that idea to allow for the fact that all “malfeasance,” whether relatively slight or  more severe, is properly subject to being publicly denounced.  To reserve criticism to only the worst offenders, I believe, allows for a kind of relativism that runs contrary to the absolute rules set forth in INTERPOL’s governing rules and texts.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.