Wednesday

21st Feb 2018

EU urged to take action on Interpol abuse

  • Katsnelson: 'I was released having to … explain to my then three-year-old son why his father had been missing for so long' (Photo: Jumilla)

MEPs have urged the European Commission and the EU foreign service to take action on Interpol abuse, after a damning report.

The international police body, based in Lyon, France, is "being misused by countries such as Russia, Belarus, Turkey and Iran to target political exiles, many of them refugees living in the European Union," the deputies said in a letter on Tuesday (26 November).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The situation is "undermining the [EU's] concept of an area of freedom, security and justice" and "the effectiveness of the European Union's external action" in shielding foreign dissidents, they noted.

They added that "despite this, there is no effective remedy available to those affected."

The MEPs - six British, Dutch, Estonian, German and Portuguese deputies - spoke out after a hard-hitting study by the London-based NGO, Fair Trials International.

The report highlights multiple cases involving EU countries in recent years.

In one incident, a US-born businessman, Ilya Katsnelson, who sought refuge in Denmark after being targeted by the Russian mafia, was arrested by German police at gunpoint because Russia issued an Interpol alert.

“Having spent two months in a foreign maximum-security prison, I was released having to … explain to my then three-year-old son why his father had been missing for so long," he told the NGO.

Iran got Interpol to file notices on 12 dissidents living in Sweden and Germany.

Ali Caglayan, a Turkish dissident who got German asylum, was six years later arrested in Poland due to an old Turkish request on Interpol files.

"I know of about 250 Turkish and Kurdish activists living in Europe as refugees and many have Interpol problems," he noted.

"Even within the Schengen area, the space within the European Union in which border controls are abolished, an individual may hesitate to travel for fear that contact with authorities might lead to an arrest," the Fair Trials study said.

The MEPs have no legal power to make EU officials act.

But their wake-up call is just the latest in a series of complaints.

For his part, Jeh Jonson, the nominee for the new US chief of homeland security, told Congress in November that when he challenged Interpol on Katsnelson its "bureaucracy seemed impenetrable and uninterested."

The EU administration is equally unwilling to tackle the problem.

The EU foreign service told EUobserver that Interpol is "an essential tool for the fight against organised crime and terrorism" and that its work is "highly appreciated."

The spokesman of EU home affairs commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, declined to read the Fair Trials report, saying she has "no mandate" on Interpol.

His reaction comes despite intimate Interpol-EU co-operation.

Interpol has formal agreements with Malmstrom's police and judicial agencies, Europol and Eurojust, which, the MEPs say, puts them at risk of handling "information which has been obtained in breach of human rights" by some Interpol member states who torture prisoners.

Interpol's spokesman told EUobserver it "has partnered with the EU on a wide range of ... programmes," which he called "Interpol-EU projects."

He cited joint initiatives on police in West Africa, on child abuse, maritime crimes and arms trafficking - the so-called Wapis, ICSE, Crimlea and iArms projects - as examples.

Relinc premature?

Meanwhile, two Interpol staff are currently working with EU diplomats in Tripoli on the EU-funded "Relinc" scheme to "facilitate" Libyan officials' access to its databases.

The new Libyan authorities already have the right to file Interpol notices.

But an internal EU document - dated 18 April 2013 and seen by EUobserver - says that in the aftermath of the war there is an "effective lack of rule of law" in Libya and that its ministries of interior and justice suffer from "widespread corruption."

Fair Trials highlighted how corrupt officials also abuse Interpol's network.

In one case, in the United Arab Emirates, a jewel trader used government contacts to file an Interpol notice against a Lebanese supplier in order to avoid paying him a $150,000 business debt.

Interpol said in a press release it has "well-established systems in place to identify and address potentially politically motivated requests, and measures to protect the rights of individuals."

It cited its Commission for the Control of Interpol's Files (CCIF) as an internal oversight body.

The Fair Trials report indicates the CCIF is not fit for purpose, however.

Interpol spends just €120,000 a year on it out of its €70 million a year budget.

Its five staff meet three times a year for two days at a time. They look at between 60 and 80 people's appeals a day and can take as long as two years to make up their mind.

Interpol also noted its general secretariat stamps out political "red notices."

leaky i-link

But Interpol systems, such as its "i-link" database, installed in 2009, let countries file "diffusions" and what Fair Trials calls "draft red notices," which can also prompt arrests, but which bypass the secretariat.

There were 20,130 "diffusions" in 2011, almost three times the amount of "red notices."

The MEPs urged Malmstrom and EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton to create a "group of experts" to monitor Interpol and to stop it from criminalising people who have been granted asylum by EU countries.

Fair Trials chief Jago Russell echoed their appeal.

"Countries can use Interpol's systems to make the European Union unsafe for political dissidents who have sought refuge there," he told EUobserver.

'I thought I was safe in Europe'

Arrest of Turkish dissident has again highlighted the way rogue regimes use Interpol to hunt their enemies inside the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Commission fines car cartels €546m
  2. Juncker: 'nothing' wrong in Katainen meeting Barroso
  3. Juncker appoints new head of cabinet
  4. MEPs decide not to veto fossil fuel projects list
  5. Factory relocation risks drawing Vestager into Italian election
  6. Irregular migration into EU drops to four-year low, says Frontex
  7. Macron's new migrant law faces opposition in parliament
  8. MEPs approve anti-smuggling bill on tobacco

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  2. International Climate ShowSupporting Start-Ups & SMEs in the Energy Transition. 21 February in Brussels
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  4. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  5. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  7. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. MEPs bar WMD and killer robots from new EU arms fund
  2. Canete gets EU parliament pension while still commissioner
  3. Bank of Latvia sends deputy to ECB amid bribery probe
  4. We are not (yet) one people
  5. Intellectual property protection - the cure for Europe's ills
  6. Eastern states push back at rule of law conditions on funds
  7. Katainen explains: My friend Barroso did not lobby me
  8. A European budget: securing a prosperous future for Europe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  2. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  4. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  5. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  6. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  9. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  11. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  12. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission