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NEWS

From 2013 to present- how has INTERPOL improved in its methods? Looking at Fair Trials' 'Strengthening Interpol: An Update'

editor - May 30, 2017 - Cross-border justice, INTERPOL, red notice, Torture

Fair Trials has launched a new report for consultation, entitled ‘Strengthening INTERPOL: An Update’. This report examines and considers the changes introduced by INTERPOL , leading on from Fair Trials’ 2013 report.
INTERPOL is a key tool in combating and monitoring transnational criminal activity through inter-state cooperation. The mechanisms for seeking a person's arrest are being utilised more and more- this can be shown by the increase in the number of Red Notices issued; from 2,343 in 2005 to 12,787 in 2016. INTERPOL is an effective and essential tool in transnational policing. However, issues with INTERPOL, rooteBF3-1106d in a lack of efficiency in policing its own systems, have been brought to light by Fair Trials.
In 2013 Fair Trials published a report 'Strengthening respect for human rights, strengthening INTERPOL', which highlighted how INTERPOL had become vulnerable to abuse by countries seeking to use its systems against human rights defenders, political activists and journalists living in exile. The extremely difficult consequences for the individuals can include restricted movement, frozen assets and reputational harm.  INTERPOL is meant to operate under standards of neutrality and human rights, however, as Fair Trials addressed in the report, INTERPOL has not complied with this, which in effect, undermines its credibility.
So has INTERPOL adapted, and if so, how, since the 2013 report flagged up these issues?
Looking at the recent Fair Trials working paper 'Strengthening Interpol: An Update' we can see some clear progress, from INTERPOL's actions, in addressing several issues Fair Trials highlighted.
Three of the main improvements in INTERPOL policy are as follows:

  • In 2015 INTERPOL announced that INTERPOL alerts will not be published in relation to individuals with refugee status, granted to protect them from persecution in the country which has requested publication of the alert
  • INTERPOL has reasserted control over the data published on its database, ensuring that all INTERPOL alerts are subject to more detailed scrutiny- especially concerning Red Notices, which will be subject to this scrutiny before they are published
  • The Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (to which challenges to the validity of an INTERPOL alert can be submitted) has undergone significant reform which we hope will enable it to operate as a transparent redress mechanism

However, there is still much scope for improvement. For example, Fair Trials highlights many cases in which the Red Notice is held for an excessive time period, despite evidence that it should be lifted, on grounds on likelihood of torture upon extradition. In the case of Djamel Ktiti, first arrested and detained in Morocco, then imprisoned for six months in Spain, his arrest was on the basis of a Red Notice issued by Algeria in 2009.  On both occasions his extradition was refused by national authorities based on findings that he would face an unacceptable risk of being exposed to torture. INTERPOL deleted the RED Notice against Ktiti six years after it was originally published and five years after a UN treaty body published a decision confirming the risk of torture. Fair Trials recommends that INTERPOL should conduct proactive background research into the requesting country’s human right’s record.
However we can also see the positive changes that the adoption of changes by INTERPOL has made. For example in the case of Vicdan Özerdam, a political activist, who was accepted as a refugee by Germany in 2006. The abusive Red Notice against her stated that she was sentenced to thirty years in prison after false accusations, but after six months in Croatian prison and eventual release, it was deleted in 2017 when the new Refugee Policy was applied to her case.  This case shows the vital importance of the new Refugee Policy by INTERPOL.
The new working paper shows that whilst INTERPOL has made major steps forward, especially in the prevention of the circulation of abusive INTERPOL alerts, there is still work to be done to show INTERPOL’s commitment to protection of human rights in the context of international police cooperation. We hope that ‘Strengthening INTERPOL: An Update’ can now be used for consultation and that Fair Trials, along with other civil society organisations, can work with INTERPOL to improve their effectiveness.
You can access the consultative report here. 

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If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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