INTERPOL must protect its systems against misuse, to ensure its vital crime fighting tools are not abused against refugees, journalists and peaceful political activists.
INTERPOL is the world’s largest international police organisation, with 190 member countries and an annual budget of €70m. INTERPOL plays a vital role in fighting crime, disseminating information to enable the arrest and extradition of people wanted for serious crimes. However, we know that its systems are frequently abused by countries around the world in order to persecute refugees, journalists and peaceful political demonstrators.
Since 2012, Fair Trials International has helped dozens of people who have subject to abusive INTERPOL alerts from countries including Russia, Belarus, Turkey, Venezuela, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. These alerts have the power to turn people’s lives upside down and deprive them of their liberty. In many countries – including within the EU – people subject to an INTERPOL alert will be automatically arrested and detained. The impact can be devastating.
People in this situation have no independent court they can turn to for redress. INTERPOL has agreed legal immunity in the countries it is based, meaning its actions cannot be challenged in court. At present, the only realistic option is to seek a remedy is the Commission for Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF), a review panel within INTERPOL.
Having made several applications to the CCF, Fair Trials International has serious concerns about its operation: its proceedings are not adversarial, no reasons are given for the decision reached, its decisions are not binding on INTERPOL and there is no process by which to challenge a decision. This falls far short of the standards required by international human rights law.
Fair Trials International is campaigning for simple changes to help make INTERPOL a more effective crime fighting tool. Our report shows the extent of INTERPOL abuse and sets out clear and concise reforms to avoid the injustices we have seen in the past.
Our campaign objectives have found support in the EU institutions, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.