This is the first in a series of posts by guest author Lisa Ould-Aklouche*
INTERPOL’s former president, Meng Hongwei, was arrested in China in September of 2018. His wife, Grace Meng, believes that his arrest was politically motivated, considering that Mr. Meng was known for his reformist views. Since his arrest, he has been reportedly unable to speak or meet with his attorneys. If that is the case, it signifies that China is not willing to uphold its obligations to INTERPOL.
Additionally, in China, newly enacted legislation allows for investigations against public officials and members of the Communist Party are conducted secretly, without access to legal counsel or guarantee to fundamental human rights.
China’s obligation to uphold the due process rights of individuals
It is worth recalling that INTERPOL is an intergovernmental organization that is governed by international law.
Article 2 (1) of the Constitution of INTERPOL, INTERPOL’s main legal instrument, states that INTERPOL aims to :
“Ensure and promote the widest possible mutual assistance between all criminal police authorities within the limits of the laws existing in the different countries and in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)”
China is a signatory of the UDHR, as well as one of its drafters.
Article 10 provides that:
“Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.”
Article 11 provides that:
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence…
If Chinese officials are indeed preventing accused individuals from having meaningful access to counsel or fair and transparent proceedings, China is not meeting its commitments to fundamental human rights legislation, and consequently, is not meeting its commitments to INTERPOL.
China’s request for coordination on INTERPOL’s public statements
Chinese authorities seem particularly attentive to the way in which INTERPOL communicates on this sensitive subject. While transmitting the letter of resignation attributed to Mr. Meng, Le Monde reports that the Chinese Ministry of Public Security stressed that Interpol was “kindly requested to continue to coordinate with the Chinese authorities on communication on this subject and to inform them of any information or comment that may be made public by the organization or one of its representatives.”
INTERPOL’s only statement on this subject, aside from its report of his resignation, and its statement regarding assurances from China regarding Mr. Meng’s well-being is as follows:
We are aware of media reports in connection with the alleged disappearance of INTERPOL President Meng Hongwei.
This is a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China.
Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General, is the full time official responsible for the day to day running of the Organization.
INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters will not comment further.
So why would INTERPOL decline to express clear policy statements that might upset the Chinese authorities? The question of INTERPOL’s financial dependence can be raised. Indeed, it has to be noted that in 2019, China is the 7th largest contributor to the funding of INTERPOL (with more than 2 millions of dollars funded, representing 3.7 % of the total amount funded by the statutory contributions ). INTERPOL’s funding statements indicate that China’s financial contribution has doubled in almost ten years (it was 1,110,853 dollars in 2010) .
As a consequence of its inaction, INTERPOL gives the appearace that it has been weakened by political pressure, which might directly affect its impartiality. Moreover, if INTERPOL is impotent to ensure its own legal principles for the benefit of its own president, how strongly can it be dedicated to ensuring them towards ordinary citizens of its member countries?
As always, comments and questions are welcomed.
* Ms. Ould-Aklouche holds a master’s degree in French law. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org