EU announces INTERPOL talks
The EU Commission has acknowledged Fair Trials’ report on INTERPOL, committing to raise with the international policing organisation the existing procedures for issuing INTERPOL notices and to consider whether further action is needed to strengthen the organisation’s mechanisms to avoid politically-motivated cases.
In an answer given to European Parliamentary questions on 17th December 2013, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecelia Malmström, confirmed that the Commission is aware of specific cases in which allegedly politically-motivated requests were made by a number of INTERPOL’s members for the arrest of wanted persons. The answer came two weeks after the publication of our in-depth report – Strengthening Respect for Human Rights, Strengthening INTERPOL in November.
The response followed a parliamentary question in October, submitted by Judith Sargentini (Verts/ALE) and Barbara Lochbihler (Verts/ALE), which asked the Commission to seek information from INTERPOL as to what mechanisms are in place to detect attempts to abuse its systems. The question also asked the Commission to clarify what weight is attached to the granting of refugee status to those wanted under INTERPOL notices, as well as the impact of EU Member State’s refusal to extradite individuals wanted under the INTERPOL alert system. You can read the full question here.
As the parliamentary question highlights, the INTERPOL alert system, in its current form, has allowed political refugees to be targeted by Member States, as was the case with Petr Silaev. Petr is a recognised refugee who fled a police crackdown in Moscow following a demonstration in support of the Khimki forest ecological campaign. Those taking part in the campaign were subject to intimidation and violence with one man, local journalist Mikhail Beketov, beaten so badly he eventually died in hospital. During the widespread crackdown, police accused Petr of “hooliganism” – an offence widely misused in Russia, including against the punk band “Pussy Riot” and the “Arctic 30″.
Petr escaped Russia and was recognised as a political refugee in the EU (by Finland). Despite this, Russia was able to use INTERPOL to ask countries across Europe to arrest and extradite Petr. Due to this INTERPOL alert, Petr was arrested and detained in Spain and threatened with extradition to Russia. After a long legal battle, Spain recognised that Petr was being prosecuted for his political opinions and refused to extradite him but Petr continues to live under the shadow of a politically-motivated Russian arrest warrant circulated across Europe through INTERPOL. You can read more about his case, as well as the application Fair Trials made on Petr’s behalf, here.
In its response, available in full here, the Commission agreed with Fair Trials that INTERPOL has a contribution to make in the prevention of and fight against criminality and the protection of fundamental rights, but recognised the importance of avoiding politically-motivated requests.
This response comes at a time when the Council of Europe is also drawing attention to similar concerns. In their draft report, ‘Accountability of international organisations for human rights violations’, they highlight “concerns as to whether the remedy offered by the Commission (for the Control of INTERPOL’s files) meets standards of due process”, pointing out that “its procedures are not adversarial, it does not issue reasoned decisions and it cannot issue binding remedies“. The report is being debated later this month.
Fair Trials will be following these developments, along with the Commission’s discussions with INTERPOL, closely. You can read more about our campaign to make INTERPOL more effective here.
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