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NEWS

The case of Sharofiddin Gadoev reveals abuse of INTERPOL alerts against opposition activists

admin - May 13, 2019 - INTERPOL, red notice

 

The case of Sharofiddin Gadoev is an appalling example of how INTERPOL’s Red Notices can be abused by countries around the world to persecute refugees, as well as journalists, human rights activists and political opposition leaders. Gadoev is a Tajik opposition activist who fled the country in 2012 and now resides in the Netherlands, where he was recognised as a refugee.

On 14 February this year, Gadoev was arbitrarily arrested by Russian officials during a visit to Moscow, and was forced to board a plane to Tajikistan, the country he fled after years of repression. The arrest is reported to have been triggered by a politically-motivated INTERPOL Red Notice. Over the past five years, Tajikistan has been cracking down on critics of the government and turning to INTERPOL’s ‘wanted persons’ alerts to harass, intimidate, and detain Tajik activists exiled abroad, including in countries within the European Union. In Gadoev’s case, Tajikistan had clearly violated INTERPOL’s refugee policy, which stipulates that alerts for individuals with refugee status are not permitted if they are requested by the country from which the individual sought asylum.

The 33-year old opposition activist also suffered from ill-treatment while in transit and detention. In Moscow, the Russian security service allegedly forced Gadoev into their car, covered his head with a bag, taped his mouth, and beat him before placing him on a flight to Dushanbe. Gadoev claims that the Tajik officials who accompanied him on the flight also beat and threatened him. Gadoev was then taken to the Tajik Interior Ministry’s criminal investigation department, and was later kept under house arrest before finally being transferred by Tajikistan’s security services to an undisclosed location.

While in detention, Gadoev had no access to a lawyer or other human rights protections that would enable him to defend himself and challenge his detention. His family and several rights groups feared he would only reappear in a sham trial and receive a lengthy sentence, just as many other Tajik activist had before him. Meanwhile, the Tajik government published fabricated videos of Gadoev saying that he had returned to the country voluntarily. The government’s publicity stunt came to a grinding halt when Gadoev’s colleagues released a recording of him, made prior to his trip to Moscow, in which he clearly states he has no intention of travelling to Tajikistan voluntarily. 

Gadoev’s case also put the spotlight on Tajikistan’s authoritarian president Emomali Rahmon who has overseen widespread human rights abuses and a shrinking space for political opposition and civil society. Many Tajik opposition activists still remain behind bars, but thanks to international pressure from governments and human rights activists, Tajikistan’s authorities decided to release Gadoev, allowing him to return to the Netherlands safely on 2 March.

Fair Trials has helped many, including Gadoev, affected by abusive INTERPOL alerts. Since 2012, we have played a leading role in highlighting the misuse of INTERPOL and  continue our campaign to push INTERPOL to make further reforms and put in place a more effective review processes for its ‘wanted persons’ alerts. It is not only the individuals who suffer from abusive INTERPOL alerts. The efficacy and legitimacy of the whole mechanism is undermined when the system is not robust enough to prevent misuse.

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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