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NEWS

INTERPOL has a chance to crackdown on Red Notice abuse: will it act?

editor - November 7, 2016 - INTERPOL, red notice

The 85th INTERPOL General Assembly is currently underway in Bali, Indonesia, and on Wednesday INTERPOL will have a crucial opportunity to publicly reaffirm its commitment to safer and fairer working practices, when it announces the conclusions of its Working Group on the Processing of Information. The Working Group will make public the outcomes of its review, following recommendations submitted by Fair Trials which are intended to make it harder for countries to abuse “wanted person” Red Notice alerts for political ends.

interpol_logoIn her opening address Mireille Ballestrazzi, President of INTERPOL, acknowledged the organisation’s responsibility to review Red Notice procedures, noting the “significant impact that using these tools has on both international police cooperation and on people’s rights and freedoms.” Our own experience has shown many instances where politically-motivated Red Notices have posed a severe threat to individuals’ human rights and liberty, and we therefore hope that Wednesday’s press conference will outline clear proposals to limit such abuse.

Since 2012, Fair Trials has been highlighting misuse of Red Notices. We published a major policy report stating the need for INTERPOL reform, and last year we submitted a number of recommendations to the Working Group, informed by our own experience aiding people in overturning abusive Red Notices. We’ve had productive meetings and dialogue with Secretary General Jürgen Stock, and were invited by INTERPOL to submit recommendations to the Working Group as part of their review process.

Our research has repeatedly shown that it’s too easy for countries to use Red Notices as political tools to persecute refugees, journalists, and activists beyond their own borders. To combat this, we have called for reform of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF), the body which handles requests from individuals seeking access to or removal of information from INTERPOL’s files.

We’ve proposed that the CCF adopt an improved structure with specialist expert divisions, and more efficient complaints and appeals procedures. We also want the CCF to be clearer in the reasoning behind its decisions, and display greater transparency of its internal workings. Additionally, we’re calling for increased funding so that it has the capacity to effectively review appeals.  These changes are necessary to make INTERPOL a stronger, fairer, and more effective tool for fighting cross-border crime.

It is fitting that this year’s General Assembly is taking place in Bali, since the case that first drew our attention to the practice of Red Notice abuses was that of Benny Wenda, a victim of a political-motivated alert issued by Indonesia. Benny is a West Papuan tribal leader who leads a campaign for the independence of West Papua from Indonesia. Following persecution by the Indonesian government, including torture and a politically-motivated prosecution, he fled to the UK where he was granted asylum in 2002. In 2011, he learned that INTERPOL had listed a Red Notice against him at the request of Indonesia. This means that he risked arrest and extradition to Indonesia if he travelled outside of the UK, severely limiting his ability to carry out campaigning work.

Benny’s ordeal is an example of how governments use Red Notices to pursue and silence opponents beyond their own jurisdictions. Fair Trials helped Benny to successfully remove his alert, but structural reform is needed to ensure that it’s harder for politically-motivated Red Notices to be issued in the first place. INTERPOL has already responded to some of our recommendations by introducing a new policy making it harder for members to issue Red Notices against confirmed refugees or asylum seekers, thereby protecting people like Benny from the states they have fled. However, further safeguards are needed to make sure that INTERPOL remains a tool for advancing, rather than undermining, international justice.

The Working Group on the Processing of Information has given INTERPOL an opportunity to show that it takes seriously the need for reform. Ms. Ballestrazzi indicated in her opening address that its findings will “contribute to strengthen the framework of activities of the organisation,” and we hope that on Wednesday they will announce reforms to achieve this in practice.

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. For regular updates follow Fair Trials on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of the page. FB iconClick to share this story on Facebook

Related links: Fair Trials highlights INTERPOL Red Notice misuse at US Congress briefing Guest Post: INTERPOL’s New Political Refugee Policy is Already Affecting Lives for the Better INTERPOL Campaign Video: INTERPOL - The Need for Reform  

 

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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