This is the second part of a two part series.

In the last post, we discussed the fact that INTERPOL’s new president, Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi, is the subject of multiple human rights violations allegations (these have been raised in the countries named in the post title, above). This post will focus on the possible effects of those allegations on Al-Raisi’s ability to function as INTERPOL’s president.

Relevance of Al-Raisi’s Physical Presence in France

One of the complaints against Al-Raisi was closed without action last year based on a French court’s finding that he neither lived in France nor was he present on its soil, and therefore personal jurisdiction was lacking.

However, after the General Assembly at which he was elected president, Al-Raisi has appeared on French soil as part of his obligation to work at INTERPOL, which is headquartered in Lyon, and the complaint has been re-filed as of this March. The NGO that filed the complaint is the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (“GCHR”); the organization continues to advocate for justice for human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, whose case is also the subject of a Human Rights Watch campaign. According to GCHR, the most recent complaint led to a meeting with a representative from the Central Office for the Fight against Crimes against Humanity, Genocide and War Crimes (OCLCH).

If the complaint and investigation lead to formal charges, Al-Raisi could be detained, questioned, and tried if he enters France or French territory. Such events would obviously affect his ability to serve as President.

When asked if these criminal allegations undermined INTERPOL’S credibility, INTERPOL’S Secretary-General, Jürgen Stock, responded that  “At this stage, it is an accusation, but of course, we are well aware.” Regardless of the gravity of the criminal allegations, INTERPOL member countries clearly bore in mind the presumption of innocence as demonstrated by Al-Raisi’s election in the 89th INTERPOL General Assembly.

Effect of Possible Conflict of Interest

When the president of a law enforcement support organization is facing criminal charges, the question of a conflict of interest will naturally arise. While some conflicts of interests may concern specific cases, another issue is the larger conflict posed when a person is obliged to both hold member countries accountable for gross human rights violations while simultaneously defending himself from multiple accusations of exactly those actions.

At least with respect to his role on the Executive committee, which INTERPOL’s president heads, there is a process in place that is meant to determine how conflicts of interests should be addressed.

The Executive Committee is the governing body in charge of supervising the execution of the General Assembly’s decisions and the administration and work of the General Secretariat. Members of the Executive Committee are expected to act without self-interest. A conflict of interest in this context is defined as an actual or potential incompatibility between the duties of an Executive Committee member and private, or personal interests. Actual complaints result in immediate recusal of the Committee member unless the Executive Committee grants dispensation. If a conflict of interest is potential rather than actual, the Executive Committee member concerned must seek the advice of the Executive Committee on whether he or she should recuse themselves. Ultimately the Executive Committee may disagree with the member’s decision and vote for recusal.

Thus, without a complaint being filed regarding a conflict of interest, the issue will not be raised in the context of his role on the Executive Committee will not be raised unless Al-Raisi himself seeks the Committee’s advice.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

*Thanks to Daniela Gomez, B.A. Candidate at Florida International University August 2022, for her contribution to this post.

 

 

 

 

 

Prior to being elected President of INTERPOL, Major General Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi was the subject of several accusations of human rights violations in connection with his law enforcement role in the United Arab Emirates.  For example, Britons Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa had filed two separate torture complaints accusing Al-Raisi of racial, psychological, and physical abuse while in custody of the UAE’s authorities in Emirati prisons. Additionally, Al-Raisi allegedly committed “acts of torture and barbarism” against incarcerated human rights activist Ahmed Mansour, who is accused of “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE.”   The UAE has denied all allegations regarding Al-Raisi.

 The accusations of human rights violations  by the UAE and Al-Raisi have been advanced in multiple investigations and lawsuits in the UK, Sweden, Norway, and France.

Of particular concern to French authorities must be the complaints filed by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights accusing Al-Raisi of “acts of inhumanity and torture” regarding Ahmed Mansoor (the human rights activist mentioned above). If French prosecutors pursue this criminal complaint, Al-Raisi could be held liable for alleged crimes. When the complaints were filed last year, the court dismissed them due to a lack of personal jurisdiction over Al-Raisi. That status may have changed* since the time of last year’s General Assembly, where Al-Raisi became INTERPOL’S President in 2021 and received 68.9 percent of votes cast by member countries in the 89th INTERPOL General Assembly.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

*The status of the complaints in France will be addressed in Part 2 of this two-part series.

** Thanks to Daniela Gomez, B.A. Candidate at Florida International University August 2022, for her contribution to this post.

In the last post, RNLJ addressed the growing call for meaningful international responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. INTERPOL is among the organizations to which the world is looking for leadership on this issue, particularly given its status as a law enforcement support entity. Since that post, INTERPOL has issued a statement on its position.

In declining to suspend Russia as a member country, INTERPOL invoked Article 3 of its Constitution, which prohibits INTERPOL’s involvement in political matters. It did, however, take some steps toward data protection during the time of this conflict:

To prevent any potential misuse of INTERPOL’s channels in relation to the targeting of individuals within or beyond the conflict in Ukraine, heightened supervision and monitoring measures in relation to Russia have now been implemented by the Secretary General, a decision which was endorsed by the Executive Committee.

Effective immediately, diffusions can no longer be sent directly by NCB Moscow to member countries. NCB Moscow must now send all diffusions to the General Secretariat to be checked for compliance with INTERPOL’s Rules. Only if a diffusion is found compliant will the General Secretariat then disseminate it to member countries. This procedure is in addition to the General Secretariat’s current process of reviewing all Notice requests for compliance.

INTERPOL is thus applying a review process to diffusions which is more similar to that utilized prior to the issuance of a Red Notice. Before a Red Notice is issued, approval by the General Secretariat is required, as opposed to the usual immediate circulation of a diffusion that requires no approval beyond that of the sending member country.

The statement also included an acknowledgement that, as a result of the invasion, it is widely anticipated that many member countries will not cooperate with Russian extradition requests:

Similarly, a decision by a member country whether to act on a request via INTERPOL, is exclusively at the discretion of the competent national authorities.

The organization also explained a practical basis for its position:

In addition to the tragic loss of life, conflicts invariably lead to an increase in crime, with organized crime groups looking to exploit the desperation of individuals seeking safety, with an increased risk of abuse and trafficking, in addition to weapons smuggling and trafficking in illicit goods and medicines.

Checks against INTERPOL’s databases at control points along the Ukrainian border have already resulted in the identification of individuals wanted by four different countries for a range of offences.

INTERPOL was created to ensure the widest possible law enforcement cooperation, including between countries where diplomatic relations do not exist.

As long as the INTERPOL network can assist in the rescue of one child abuse victim, the prevention of one terrorist attack or the identification of one missing person, it is its duty to ensure that lines of communication remain open.

INTERPOL’s statement reflects the reality of any organization that requires information to function: there must be a pathway for that information to flow in order for the organization to perform its mission. The Russian invasion of Ukraine raises the question of when -or whether- an INTERPOL member country can take any action so egregious that INTERPOL will block a country from that pathway.

In this particular conflict, INTERPOL has made no public determination of the illegality of Russia’s actions, although it did have the choice to do so. Instead, it determined that its mission is best served by keeping the information path open and more intensely scrutinizing the data that Russia is circulating.

As might be expected, my personal opinion is that INTERPOL should have at least temporarily suspended Russia from access to its databases. Russian abuse of INTERPOL’s tools has gone on for too long and a more harsh response is merited. However, it must be acknowledged that INTERPOL’s statement was issued in a thoughtful, reasoned, and diplomatic manner following consideration by its Executive Committee. If INTERPOL’s method of addressing this crisis is successful, it will result in a heightened number of abusive notices and diffusions being identified and prevented from being circulated.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted numerous consequences against the Putin-led regime, but thus far, INTERPOL has not yet imposed any consequences of its own against its member country for this illegal act. INTERPOL’s constitution requires that its member countries act in accordance with both its their own domestic laws and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and all member countries are required to observe all applicable international treaties and conventions.

The United Nations Charter provides that

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

As a UN member, Russia is bound to uphold this principle. Russia’s use of force in this situation has resulted in multiple consequences, such as

However, missing from the ever-increasing call for international condemnation against the Russian invasion is the voice of INTERPOL, the international law enforcement organization. Now, an alliance including the U.S., Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand has called upon INTERPOL to suspend Russia’s access to its network based on the illegal invasion.

Thus far, there has been no move to change Russia’s status. The removal/suspension process has not been initiated as yet, to RNLJ’s knowledge.

INTERPOL has an opportunity to stand strong for its principles as an organization committed to the rule of law, or not. Time will tell.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

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.

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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.