Defending theHuman Rightto a Fair Trial
September 14, 2016
Our Campaign and Communications Intern, Georgia Greenfield, reports on recent examples of INTERPOL abuses and how Fair Trials’ work has contributed to safety for political refugees.
By the time Sulaman Davlatov was arrested in early 2015 he had fled Tajikistan due to political persecution. Acting on an INTERPOL Red Notice, Davlatov was detained by Finnish authorities on 20 February. He was accused of membership to Group 24.
The movement, founded in 2012, is a Tajik opposition movement organised from Moscow due to severe political repression. It was declared illegal by the Tajik government on 9 October 2014 and authorities subsequently sought to arrest key members.
INTERPOL Red Notices taken out by the Tajik authorities against groups like Group 24 have frequently been criticised as politically motivated. Davlatov was also accused of recruiting Tajik citizens to fight in Syria with the Islamic State militant group. This follows a trend of Tajik authorities charging critics of the regime with “extremism”. Tajikistan has continuously used INTERPOL and other countries’ judicial systems to target opposition leaders living abroad.
Despite Tajikistan being heavily suspected of INTERPOL abuse, the Red Notice meant that Davlatov was held in detention for a month without charge, and without any evidence being presented for the extremism charge.This serves to demonstrate the ongoing need for reforms that guard INTERPOL systems from abuse.
Since his release Davlatov applied for asylum in Lithuania. Fabio Belafatti, working on his case, produced a document which assessed the judicial system in Tajikistan and gave extensive information on the targeting of Group 24 members. This document succeeded in convincing Lithuanian authorities that he is at risk if returned and he was granted asylum.
The document detailed that Tajik Judicial practices have often been described as falling significantly below international standards in terms of fair trial, protection against torture, independence of the judicial system from power and protection from arbitrary prosecution.
It demonstrated that there are concerns of significant risks of human rights abuses for people who are extradited to Tajikistan. Accordingly, The Financial Times argued in September 2015 that ‘Western governments can stop the abuse of Interpol that has enabled Tajikistan’s security services to track its opponents overseas and refuse to extradite anyone back to the country’
In the same month as this statement, INTERPOL’s new policy on the processing of Red Notices against refugees came into play in this case, in which an opposition figure and refugee had his Red Notice removed. The policy followed recommendations that we made to INTERPOL following the publication of our major report showing how countries across the world are abusing INTERPOL to persecute refugees, journalists and peaceful political activists. Similarly, the decision to grant Davlatov asylum also came in line with this policy.
The new policy, which was announced early 2015, provides that:
In general, the processing of Red Notices and diffusions against refugees will not be allowed if the following conditions are met:
1) the status of refugee or asylum-seeker has been confirmed;
2) the notice/diffusion has been requested by the country where the individual fears persecution;
3) the granting of the refugee status is not based on political grounds vis-à-vis the requesting country.
Sulaman Davlatov is now safe from INTERPOL abuse because of changes in INTERPOL policy that we were able to influence. In this instance two of our primary causes intersected; INTERPOL was abused as a tool for political persecution, and hasty Pre-Trial Detention was used to implement INTERPOL abuses. This story shows why progresses toward INTERPOL reforms is such a vital part of our campaigning, but ultimately we aspire to a world where there is no abuse of INTERPOL to be protected from.
Georgia Greenfield is a poet and activist based in London.
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 more on Fair Trials’ campaign to end unjustified pre-trial detention, please visit our campaign page.
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