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.

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.

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.