“Hooliganism” and the abuse of INTERPOL’s systems
November 5, 2013
Following our meeting with INTERPOL in September, Fair Trials has written directly to INTERPOL’s Secretary General Ronald K. Noble asking for clarification on how it deals with cases of “hooliganism” coming out of Russia.
Cases such as Pussy Riot (pictured) and the Greenpeace “Arctic 30” protesters have drawn worldwide attention to the vaguely-defined offence of “hooliganism”. Originally introduced by the criminal codes of the Soviet Union (where it was used to sentence the Czech politician Vaclav Havel to 8 months in prison) hooliganism was defined as ‘any deliberate behaviour that violates public order and expresses explicit disrespect toward society.’
Critics have long alleged that the offence is used as a catch-all provision to pursue criminal proceedings against peaceful political demonstrators, journalists and artists. The maximum punishment under Russian law is seven years’ imprisonment.
Fair Trials is now concerned that the politicised use of the hooliganism offence is being extended to the international arena through the use of INTERPOL alerts. We know that ‘hooliganism’ was used by Russia to seek the arrest of Petr Silaev, the refugee and non-violent anti-fascist campaigner who was imprisoned in Spain following an abusive INTERPOL alert. Petr discusses the charges and his arrest in this video.
Despite a detailed submission from Fair Trials highlighting why Petr’s case represents a clear abuse of INTERPOL’s own rules and of international human rights law, INTERPOL has failed to remove the alert against Petr. In October, we received a 1-page letter stating that Petr’s data would remain on INTERPOL’s systems.
A similar approach has also been taken by the country in the case of Anastasia Rybachenko, accused of participating in mass riots. Fair Trials has already written to INTERPOL, urging the organisation to ensure its systems are not abused to persecute. Ms. Rybachenko.
Writing to Ron Noble, Fair Trials asks INTERPOL to confirm whether “hooliganism” features as a criterion on INTERPOL’s “watch lists”, to provide copies of any guidance on reviewing alerts based on “hooliganism”, and to confirm whether any current alerts issued by the Russian Federation are based on this offence and, if so, whether these have been reviewed. Read our letter here.
This month, Fair Trials will publish a major report on INTERPOL, highlighting how its systems have been abused by countries across the world, and setting out legal reforms which we believe could prevent this abuse and protect individuals’ fundamental human rights. If you are interested in receiving this report, please contact Robert Jackman.
If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on 020 7822 2370 or 07950 849 851.
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