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FPC’s latest publication examines whether international organisations like INTERPOL are up to their human rights commitments

editor - February 18, 2016 - council of europe, INTERPOL, osce

FPC institutionally blindThe Foreign Policy Centre (FPC)’s latest publication, Institutionally blind? International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union, examines whether international organisations in the post-Soviet space are complying with their human rights commitments, and shows how these institutions are under constant attack both from within and without post-Soviet states. The publication scrutinises the work of, inter alia, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly and European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and INTERPOL.

Adam Hug, the publication’s editor, stated at last week’s launch event that international organisations covering the area are “undermined, underfunded and underappreciated”. Post-Soviet national governments, he argued, increasingly defy the rights of international institutions to influence or challenge domestic policy, particularly regarding human rights and the rule of law. This, coupled with declining trust among citizens towards national and international institutions, presents significant challenges on the organisations’ (and member states’) capacity to implement measures effectively.

Panellists Dominic Grieve and Donald Anderson agreed that the human rights situation in the post-Soviet space has generally improved thanks to membership of international institutions, with the notable exception of Russia’s recent “downward trend” in human rights protection. More specifically, as Kate Levine’s piece underscores, at the end of 2015 Russia passed legislation allowing its Constitutional Court to overturn ECtHR rulings it deems unconstitutional or impossible to implement. Panellist Anna Chernova, drawing on her experience working for OSCE, was not as optimistic as her counterparts. She highlighted that the OSCE’s consensus-based decision-making process significantly waters down human rights interventions, and that rogue behaviour by Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan poses a more prominent threat to its integrity than Russia’s recent actions.

Tinatin Tsertsvadze, who described the European Union’s line of action towards former Soviet states as “fragmented, inconsistent and at times occasional”, noted a shift from rule of law and human rights promotion to a more realist approach based on politico-economic and energy security.

Two of the essays included in the publication are particularly relevant to Fair Trials’ remit. Firstly, Kate Levine’s piece focuses on some of the challenges facing the European Court of Human Rights in Russia, Ukraine, and the South Caucasus, such as the unprecedented wave of politically motivated arrests, detentions and convictions of human rights defenders and civil society activists in Azerbaijan; and the legislative and judicial efforts to restrict independent NGOs and ECtHR rulings in Russia.

Secondly, Fair Trials’ Legal and Policy Director, Libby McVeigh, explores the reforms undertaken by INTERPOL to ensure respect for human rights in an essay titled Vision restored? Reform of INTERPOL to strengthen protection of human rights. Through examples of politically motivated ‘wanted person’ (“Red Notice”) alerts from Azerbaijan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Belarus, she argues that reform has become an unavoidable agenda item for INTERPOL. The world policing organisation routinely fails to adequately implement its own constitutional human rights obligations, whose interpretation is unclear and at times diverges from international standards and practice. The essay also denounces the lack of an effective avenue of redress for individuals who challenge the misuse of INTERPOL’s alert systems. However, there is still room for hope, as INTERPOL’s desire for change towards greater respect for human rights appears to be patent.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +44 (0) 7950 849 851. For regular updates follow Fair Trials on Twitter or sign up to our monthly bulletin at the bottom of the page.

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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