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NEWS

Fair Trials highlights abuse of INTERPOL alerts at Washington, D.C. hearing on recent legislation

admin - October 2, 2019 - INTERPOL

 

On 12 September, Bruno Min, our Senior Legal and Policy Advisor based in London, represented Fair Trials at a hearing in Washington, D.C. to give evidence for the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the U.S. Helsinki Commission) and members of Congress about the abusive use of INTERPOL’s Notices and Diffusions. This expert panel was convened by the Helsinki Commission to highlight abuse of INTERPOL in light of its recently introduced legislation in the House of Representatives, called the Transnational Repression Accountability and Prevention (TRAP) Act.

During the hearing in D.C., Bruno spoke about our concerns for INTERPOL moving forward. At the hearing, as well as in our Briefing Note to the Commission, we emphasized that INTERPOL is an important tool to tackle cross-border crime. However, INTERPOL cannot always ensure that countries comply with its rules to remain politically neutral and respect fundamental rights. The result is the misuse of Red Notices and Diffusions to target dissidents, human rights defenders, journalists, and others in need of international protection.

Since 2012, Fair Trials has highlighted INTERPOL abuses and campaigned for change. In recent years, INTERPOL has committed to make improvements so that its Red Notices and Diffusions have better protections from abuse, many of which are informed by our recommendations. For example, INTERPOL has adopted the ‘Refugee Policy’ which has provided refugees and asylum-seekers a much simpler process for challenging politically-motivated Red Notices and Diffusions.         

However, we have identified several remaining challenges that INTERPOL needs to address for further improvement. INTERPOL needs a more effective review process for Diffusions, so that all requests communicated through INTERPOL’s systems to locate and arrest people are subject to proper checks. Additionally, INTERPOL should improve clarity on the interpretation and implementation of its rules on human rights and neutrality. There are also further improvements to be made to its complaints body, the Commission for the Control of Files (CCF), which for many individuals, is the only avenue to challenge Red Notices and Diffusions.

We acknowledge that INTERPOL cannot fix the abuse of its systems on its own. Member countries, including the United States, must be willing to help. We invited the Helsinki Commission to support our recommendations to INTERPOL, as outlined in our latest report ‘Dismantling the Tools of Oppression’, in which we asked member countries to have better awareness of the propensity by certain countries to abuse INTERPOL; to support the work of the CCF; and to help fund INTERPOL institutions, which in our opinion are understaffed and under-resourced, to ensure the best functioning of these bodies as possible.

Fair Trials welcomed the opportunity to assist the Commission on this issue with Bruno stating that we are “very thankful that the Commission has decided to take an interest in what we believe is a very important matter. INTERPOL is not subject to any formal external effective oversight, so the oversight of member countries – and particularly the United States, the largest state donor financially speaking to INTERPOL – is particularly helpful.”

The opportunity to speak at this hearing suggests that member countries, including the United States, have taken notice of the importance in preventing abuse of INTERPOL’s system. Fair Trials looks forward to further contributions and continued work protecting against human rights abuse of INTERPOL.

 

This post was written by Abigail Olson, a legal and policy intern at Fair Trials in London, United Kingdom.

Photo by the U.S. Helsinki Commission

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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