INTERPOL - ‘Urgent reform needed to prevent human rights abuses’, leading expert says
“The international crime information sharing agency is in need of a sharp and urgent shake up”, said Radha Stirling, an Interpol and Extradition Expert who founded IPEX Reform.
“Interpol’s apparent immunity from legal accountability has left them an unregulated, yet very powerful organisation that has the ability to have individuals arrested in most of the world.
“The organisation accepts Interpol Red Notices, arrest warrants, from local ‘National Crime Bureaus’ in member countries like Saudi, Qatar and the UAE. They accept the notices with minimal checks, simply trusting that the issuing country is playing fairly. But Interpol knows they are not. They know this by the number of Interpol notices that are contested and later removed.
“It is shocking that INTERPOL will issue a red notice instantly, send it across the world and demand the arrest of a ‘wanted person’, but when the notice is challenged, they give themselves up to NINE months to consider its removal. Occasionally, they will suspend a notice in the interim but mostly, they will keep it active during the nine months.
“We are not talking about human traffickers, drug cartels and serious crime that risks people’s lives. We are talking about people accused of breach of trust, bank debt, bounced cheques and white collar crimes. There is no reason to keep a red notice active during the consideration time in these cases. If they must though, then they absolutely need to limit their consideration time to thirty days. Nine months is an unacceptable duration for an innocent person to be listed on the database. Victims of Interpol Abuse need compensation.
“Hervé Jaubert was stuck in the UK, kept from his family for almost a year after being listed on Interpol for ‘kidnapping’ Princess Latifa, who voluntarily escaped with him. Others have lost their businesses, their livelihoods and their reputations. Pilots have been grounded, individuals in regulated industries have been unable to work until cleared and businessmen who need to travel, have been unable to do so.
“Right now, one of the leading abusers of Interpol, Sheikh Saud al Qasimi ‘the King of Interpol Abuse’ as we call him, has targeted Dr Khater Massaad for political and personal reasons. He’s issued seven notices against him, hoping that one would stick.
“In accepting these notices, Interpol places citizens at significant risk of being extradited to a jurisdiction where there is a very strong risk of torture and human rights violations, a jurisdiction that most European countries would never agree to extradite anyone to.
“Interpol must take responsibility for putting individuals in life threatening situations. Interpol’s policy is to leave it up to the country where the individual is arrested, to make the decision as to whether it is safe to extradite to the requesting country. This is fine when someone is arrested in a place like the United Kingdom, where there are safeguards to prevent extradition to places like the UAE. But when a red notice is abusive, often the victim is unsuspecting. They haven’t done anything wrong so they are not worried. They continue in their travels and businesses, unwittingly putting themselves at risk of being arrested in a country where human rights are less valuable. Sheikh Saud Al Qasimi, the ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, effectively writes his own Red Notices. He targeted Swiss national, Dr Massaad, American Oussama El Omari and a number of other Europeans.
“The RAK ruler has wrongfully detained a number of others, two of whom have opened litigations in the UK for torture. Jihad Quzmar and Karam Al Sadeq are suing RAK’s lawyers, Dechert, in the High Court of England for their role in the pair’s torture. Quzmar and Sadeq are still in custody.
“And what if his targets are extradited? What if they are tortured or executed? Interpol must stop wiping their hands of their obligations and responsibilities. They must adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If the victims were arrested in Europe or America, it wouldn’t be such an issue, but what if they were arrested in a country with a poor human rights record? Interpol needs to consider that they are sometimes the only line of defence for people and that their database could lead to grave violations. Interpol should not automatically discharge their responsibilities to member states. Where someone like Massaad or El Omari is at risk of torture, Interpol must take that into consideration, allow that person to return to their home country and fight extradition proceedings there. They should not request their wholesale arrest.
“This also raises the question as to what criteria a country has to meet to become a member? At this time, it’s a pay to play situation. Interpol is more than happy to accept an Interpol Red Notice from a country where a Sheikh can write his own legal judgments. They’re absolutely fine to then impose them on European nationals, and ask they be arrested by other human rights abusing countries that will automatically extradite someone, regardless of the risk to that person.
“I will be raising these cases in our Interpol Abuse workshop in Washington DC this July. The US government needs to influence policy change and accountability within Interpol’s organisation. It is insufficient that victims of Interpol Abuse are not financially compensated by the organisation. Financial compensation would encourage better practices by Interpol and its members.”
Stirling has been a leading voice against ‘Interpol Abuse’ for thirteen years, has appeared as an expert witness in multiple extradition proceedings and has represented numerous clients in having their red notices removed. Stirling says “enough is enough”.