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Council Of Europe Says Russia, Iran Abusing Interpol For Political Purposes

The sign at Interpol's headquarters in Lyon. (file photo)
The sign at Interpol's headquarters in Lyon. (file photo)

European lawmakers say Russia and Iran are among a group of countries that are increasingly abusing Interpol red notices to seek the arrest of political opponents, contributing to a five-fold increase of red notices during the past decade.

The Council of Europe said in a resolution on April 26 that it is "deplorable" to misuse the Interpol system for such purposes.

A red notice allows police in Interpol’s 190 member states to cooperate on the arrest and extradition of a person who is wanted by authorities in one country or by an international tribunal.

A Council of Europe report on April 26 said: "Interpol and its system of red notices has been misused by some member states for political purposes in recent years to suppress freedom of expression or to persecute political opponents abroad."

Among the cases cited were that of Mukhtar Ablyazov, Kazakhstan's former energy minister, who is accused of embezzling billions of dollars from the country’s BTA bank.

Ablyazov spent more than three years in custody after being arrested by French authorities in 2013 on account of a red notice issued by Russia.

France refused to extradite him but he remained in a French jail until last December when his lawyers successfully argued that Russia's goal was political.

The Council's report cited many other cases -- including Mehdi Khosravi, an Iranian arrested in Italy in August 2016 on the basis of a red notice issued by Tehran, even though he had obtained political asylum in Britain.

New Measures

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on April 26 welcomed news that Interpol has recently adopted measures to improve the reasons for a state seeking a red notification.

Those measures include a provision that red notices be circulated by Interpol only when there are serious grounds for suspicion against the targeted person.

But PACE lawmakers also argued that Interpol should do more to protect the rights of the accused, including stronger measures of recourse for a person affected by a red notice.

"Targeted persons cannot successfully challenge red notices before any national or international courts," PACE’s legal affairs and human rights rapporteur Bernd Fabritius said in a March report.

"Sometimes, people are arrested and extradited to countries where they cannot expect a fair trial, or where they are threatened by torture without even knowing that they were the subject of an Interpol notice," Fabritius said.

"Given the damage abusive red notices can do to the lives of innocent people," he said, "it is important that weaknesses in the system are identified and measures taken to prevent and redress abuses more effectively."

The number of Interpol red notices jumped from 2,343 in 2005 to 12,787 in 2016.

With reporting by AFP
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