Last month, a Swedish journalist of Turkish descent, Hamza Yalçin was finally released from detention in a Spanish jail awaiting an  extradition decision. Turkey has requested and received an INTERPOL Red Notice based upon an underlying charge of “terrorism” and insulting the Turkish president.

If he had been extradited, Mr. Yalçin would have faced over 22 years in prison for insulting the president of Turkey.  The journalist reportedly received asylum from Sweden many years ago based on his previous political activity in Turkey.   The facts that Mr.  Yalçin is a journalist and that he is an asylee from Turkey both render the Red Notice against him rather curious: INTERPOL has a policy in place that was enacted for the purpose of protecting asylees from further political persecution by the countries from which they fled, and notices against journalists are often requested based on their criticism of the requesting regime.

This is not the first time that Turkey has utilized its access to INTERPOL’s tools to aid in the prosecution of a journalist.  Earlier this year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that Germany has had to modify its policies in dealing with Turkey, and that such abuses against journalists and critics cannot be tolerated.

Yalçin was released late last month, but not because the Red Notice was dropped: he reportedly was released because Spanish law did not allow for the extradition of  an asylee.

INTERPOL has an opportunity to highlight its commitment to human rights by subjecting Turkish Red Notice requests to additional scrutiny before issuing them, particularly where the subject is an author or journalist.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Who should be outraged by Egypt’s recent move to obtain Red Notices against NGO staff members? Out of basic concern for the human condition, all of us.  More specifically, and more selfishly, those of us who rely on the activities and findings of international journalists and non-governmental organization (NGO) workers should be very concerned about Egypt’s recent activities.  

Egypt is seeking Red Notices in the names of 43 people, including 17 American NGO workers who are alleged to have worked for their respective organizations in Egypt without the proper licenses, and has asked the U.S. for assistance in locating those individuals. Those sought by Egypt include people affiliated with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the International Republican Institute (IRI).

For the alleged offense of operating without a license, Egyptian officials seek the extradition and prosecution of each individual.  As reported here, the U.S. government is engaged in talks with Egypt and INTERPOL to prevent the subject Red Notices from being issued.  

Let us hope those discussions are successful in preventing the issuance of Red Notices, because collectively, we will suffer if the voices of these individuals are silenced.  

If you thought it was bad when country-to-country cables published by Wikileaks were unavailable due to funding issues, or when Wikipedia blacked out for twenty-four hours, imagine how difficult it would be to accomplish the following without the verified and unbiased information provided by trained international journalists, human rights watch organizations, and political observers:

  1. Engaging in the preparation of an asylum petition for a client, without access to current reports from organizations such as Amnesty International regarding country conditions or political persecution.
  2. Monitoring international elections on behalf of a professional organization without being able to rely on the monitoring efforts of organizations such as Freedom House or National Democratic Institute.
  3. Researching and organizing a challenge to an INTERPOL Red Notice based on politically motivated grounds without current information regarding the issuing country’s political activities, such as harassment of dissidents, retaliatory detention, or disparate treatment of political opponents.

I can’t think of many attorneys who have the time, the skill, or quite honestly, the guts, to travel from country to country to gather the information provided by these organizations.  Without the work of investigative journalists and NGO’s, we will lose access to quality information regarding country conditions, human rights violations, and the integrity of elections.  This information makes up the substance of much of the work we do.

To maintain its international credibility, Egypt should reconsider its position on this issue.  Absent that, the U.S. should stand strong in its position in support of its citizens and against the issuance of Red Notices in their names.  By all current indications, the U.S. is doing just that.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Next time:  what it takes to get the information out of a country and into a country report.