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NEWS

Blunted but still dangerous: more reforms needed to stop abuse of INTERPOL

admin - October 4, 2018 - INTERPOL;

Despite reforms, INTERPOL’s alert system continues to be misused by autocratic regimes wishing to target dissidents. Fair Trials’ new report – ‘Dismantling the Tools of Oppression: Ending the misuse of INTERPOL’, examines what progress has been made in the last five years, since the abuse of INTERPOL was first outlined by Fair Trials. INTERPOL deserve credit for the reforms introduced so far, but it is essential that the international policing organisation adds to the positive steps taken so far, and it needs the support of countries across the world to do this.

Amongst the reforms called for in the report are for INTERPOL to implement a more effective review process for Diffusions - which, although less formal than Red Notices, result in similar consequences when abused and are still allowed to be issued and circulated by NCBs freely without prior review. Fair Trials also calls on INTERPOL to better record and collate data, so as to ensure INTERPOL be better equipped to monitor the efficiency of its reforms.

INTERPOL has taken encouraging steps to act on previous recommendations made by Fair Trials. There has been a shift in the organisation, with it showing an increased sensitivity towards the human rights impact of its activities. Practically, this shift has meant an increase in the authority and the capacity of the CCF, who are responsible for dealing with challenges to the validity of INTERPOL alerts. The changes to the CCF’s complaints procedures, introduced in 2017, also mean that individuals wishing to challenge Red Notices and Diffusions now have access to a more transparent and efficient system.

While INTERPOL deserve credit for of the reforms introduced – responding to a number of issues raised in our 2013 report – high profile examples of misuse show that there is still work to be done. With upwards of 13,000 Red Notice “wanted person” alerts now issued by the organisation yearly, the urgency for INTERPOL to act on these reforms is growing.

One concrete change, where we’ve already started to see real results is INTERPOL’s introduction of a Refugee Policy, which ensures that individuals with refugee status are now better able to have abusive Red Notices and Diffusions removed. Prior to the Refugee Policy, vulnerable individuals such as Azer Samadov, or Benny Wenda, spent years on INTERPOL’s databases, with no clear route to finding their way off it.

However, these first steps are just that - there is much more work to be done to ensure INTERPOL upholds the use of its systems to basic and universal human rights. With Fair Trials’ intervention, cases such as Azer’s, and Benny’s have thankfully come to a close. However, many individuals, like Nikita Kulachenkov, continue to face risks because of abusive diffusions.

INTERPOL’s member countries have a significant role to play in ensuring that these changes work well in reality. Fair Trials has recommended that countries support the organisation by providing ring-fenced funding to improve the capacity of the CCF and of INTERPOL’s internal task force that works to identify and delete abusive alerts.

The report also warns that INTERPOL is not an isolated example. As INTERPOL closes avenues of abuse from within its own systems, corrupt governments will continue to find other methods to exploit alternative international mechanisms. The report begins to look at other examples of this abuse.  

The full report and recommendations are available here​.

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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