STATEMENT OF CONCERN ON THE INTERPOL’S GENERAL ASSEMBLY THAT IS TO BE HELD IN ISTANBUL / TURKEY ON 23-25/11/2021

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23rd March 2021

STATEMENT OF CONCERN ON THE INTERPOL’S GENERAL ASSEMBLY THAT IS TO BE HELD IN ISTANBUL / TURKEY ON 23-25/11/2021

The General Assembly is INTERPOL’s supreme governing body, comprising representatives from each member country. It meets once a year, and each session lasts around four days.

Each member country may be represented by one or several delegates who are typically chiefs of police and senior ministry officials.

During the 89th assembly, seven new members of the Commission for the Control of Interpol Files will be selected for five years, and the new members will take the Office on 11 March 2022.

Concerns about authoritarian states’ abuse of the Interpol mechanism has been growing in recent years.[1] International NGOs, Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, the US Senate[2], the European Parliament[3] conducted studies and published reports on this matter.

For instance:

  1. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution in November 2019 addressing the abuse of INTERPOL’s Red Notices and Diffusions, calling on the EU to establish a series of best practices on the use of INTERPOL’s mechanisms, which are designed to facilitate cross-border criminal justice cooperation,
  2. In May 2021, the US Senate’s Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) introduced the Transnational Repression Accountability and Prevention (TRAP) Act to counter the politically-motivated abuse of INTERPOL by authoritarian regimes. In the bill, ‘Some INTERPOL member countries have used INTERPOL’s databases and processes, including Notice and Diffusion mechanisms and the Stolen and Lost Travel Document Database, for activities of a political or other unlawful character and in violation of international human rights standards, including making requests to INTERPOL for interventions related to purported charges of ordinary law crimes that are fabricated for political or other unlawful motives.’ was said in the bill which is expected to be debated in soon.[4]

Although the Interpol has implemented some reforms to improve its mechanisms, abusive conducts of the member states have not been deterred. On the contrary, new states, such as Turkey, has joined the abusive members.

Turkey’s abusive conducts in relation to the Interpol mechanisms

Since 2016, Turkey has increasingly been abusing the Interpol mechanisms including notice systems and Stolen and Lost Travel Documents Database. The European Parliament study titled ‘Misuse of Interpol’s Red Notices and impact on human rights – recent developments’[5], PACE report titled ‘Abusive use of the Interpol System’[6], Freedom House report titled ‘Transnational Repression Report 2101’, [7] a joint report titled ‘They’ve come for you’[8], and a report titled ‘Abuse Of The Interpol System By Turkey[9]documented Turkey’s abuse of Interpol mechanism in details.

There were also credible reports that the government attempted to use INTERPOL red notices to target specific individuals located outside the country… Freedom House reported that, since the 2016 coup attempt, the country had uploaded tens of thousands of requests in INTERPOL for persons the government designated as affiliated with the Gulen movement. There were also reports that individuals faced complications related to erroneous lost or stolen passport reports the government filed against suspected Gulen movement supporters in the years directly following the coup attempt. Targeted individuals often had no clearly identified role in the attempted coup but were associated with the Gulen movement or had spoken in favor of it. The reports to INTERPOL could lead to individuals’ detention or prevent them from traveling. – the US State Department Human Rights Report 2020 – Turkey[10]

According to the Freedom House Aside from renditions[11], the most important tool of Turkish transnational repression has been mobility controls. The authorities canceled more than 230,000[12] passports after the coup attempt in a bid to confine suspected opponents within Turkey and limit mobility for those already outside the country. The government also reported as lost or stolen an unknown number of passports. The Turkish government has tried to exploit Interpol to target exiles. Following the coup attempt, it allegedly tried to “batch” upload some 60,000 names onto the agency’s notification system.” [13]

Similarly, Turkey has sent more than 700 red notices requests to the Interpol which were rejected as they were in breach of several rules of the Interpol constitution. However, the Turkish government is not seeming to be learning from the Interpol’s decisions rejecting its requests that were in violation of the Interpol Constitution, on the contrary, it is aiming to convince the Interpol to bow its requests. Such that, the Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kıran said “The general assembly in Istanbul will be an important opportunity. We will explain in detail to the participants our rightful position regarding our fight against terrorist organizations, …and our rejected red notices.”[14] He listed ‘red notice requests, removal of the red notices and deletion the data entries made by the Turkish authorities to the “Lost and Stolen Travel Documents System’ as three main issues that Turkey aimed to change the Interpol’s position.

More reforms are needed to ensure that INTERPOL operates in compliance with the Universal Declaration for Human Rights as is required by its own Constitution.
Abusive conduct of countries like Turkey damage the reputation of the INTERPOL which is essential to its success and continuity.
Turkey which in recent years has emerged as the most prolific abuser of Interpol mechanisms has made it clear it would use its advantage of being a host country to set pressure on the members of the delegation and the INTERPOL executives for convincing them to connive or stamp its abuses. Special attention and care, therefore, are needed to this matter.


[1] See: https://pace.coe.int/pdf/a725d34d2354295cff2ad986ddaa93174644d4a02d4cd60a229316d34b0eb042/doc.%2014277.pdf

https://pace.coe.int/pdf/2ee8ef71f14c7f50cc72164b85c4c5b403644ee3083e0d67459168a3b65d1a2e/doc.%2014997.pdf

[2] TOOLS OF TRANSNATIONAL REPRESSION: HOW AUTOCRATS PUNISH DISSENT OVERSEAS,  Repressive regimes have seized on INTERPOL’s potent tools to harass and detain their perceived enemies anywhere in the world. Red Notices and diffusions are among the most commonly abused instruments at INTERPOL, as they constitute international requests for detention and extradition. The Helsinki Commission regularly receives reports from dissidents, journalists, and human rights defenders across the OSCE region who are targets of INTERPOL Notices or diffusions issued by autocratic states on trumped up charges.

https://www.csce.gov/sites/helsinkicommission.house.gov/files/ToolsOfTransnational.pdf

[3] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2019/603472/EXPO_STU(2019)603472_EN.pdf

[4] https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1591/text?r=25&s=1

[5] https://www.statewatch.org/media/documents/news/2019/feb/ep-study-interpol-red-notices.podf.pdf

[6] https://pace.coe.int/pdf/a725d34d2354295cff2ad986ddaa93174644d4a02d4cd60a229316d34b0eb042/doc.%2014277.pdf

[7] https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2021-02/Complete_FH_TransnationalRepressionReport2021_rev020221.pdf

[8] https://arrestedlawyers.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/04-11-2019-report-extraditions-eng.pdf

[9] https://stockholmcf.org/abuse-of-the-interpol-system-by-turkey/

[10] https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/turkey/

[11] Since 2016, the Turkish Government has been carrying out a global abduction / rendition campaign. According to a submission made to the US Congress by the Freedom House, “In response to that coup attempt, the Turkish Government embarked on a global campaign against those that it held responsible, principally members of the Gulen movement. Using an expansive guilt by association approach, Turkey designated anyone associated with the movement as part of a terrorist organization, and aggressively pursued them around the world. This involved multiple tools. Turkey uploaded tens of thousands of requests for detention into INTERPOL’s systems. It canceled the passports of thousands of people who were outside the country. It refused to renew the passports of others. And it refused to issue passports for some Turkish children born outside the country, in an effort to get their parents to return to Turkey so that they could be arrested. Most strikingly, Turkey physically brought back at least 104 Turkish citizens from 21 countries, according to its own official statements. At least 30 of those were kidnappings– citizens taken from abroad without any legal process whatsoever. People pulled off the streets of foreign cities, bundled onto private jets linked to Turkey’s intelligence services. In one well-documented case, the kidnapping of six Turkish citizens from Kosovo, one of the men Turkey took was the wrong person–a different Turkish citizen with a similar name. That man remains in prison in Turkey anyway, while the, quote/unquote, “right” man received asylum in Europe.”[11]

govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-116hhrg37829/html/CHRG-116hhrg37829.htm

[12]  “Through Emergency Decree Laws and Law no. 7188, the Turkish government has severely restricted the freedom of movement of hundreds of thousands of citizens by cancelling their passports or refusing to issue a new one. These laws and the corresponding practice not only violate the Turkish constitution but also contravene Turkey’s human rights obligations under regional and international law. In December 2017, the Minister of the Interior announced that 234,419 passports had been revoked. Subsequently, 20,000 more public servants were dismissed, and the passports of these people and their spouses were cancelled. Those who previously had no passports were subjected to a passport ban. Hence, it is estimated that some 500,000 individuals are deprived of the freedom to leave the country.”

Turkey’s Disregard for the Freedom of Movement, VerfBlog, 2019/12/11, https://verfassungsblog.de/turkeys-disregard-for-the-freedom-of-movement/

[13] https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2021-02/Complete_FH_TransnationalRepressionReport2021_rev020221.pdf

[14] https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/interpol-rejects-turkeys-773-red-notice-requests-on-feto-official-165277