Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Russia targets UK activist via Interpol

  • Browder (r) at the European Parliament in Brussels (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

EU states should put financial pressure on Interpol to stop countries such as Russia from abusing the system, a prominent human rights campaigner has said.

Bill Browder, a London-based figure who has fought for tighter EU and US sanctions on Russia, spoke out after the Kremlin confirmed it had filed another red notice at the international police agency calling for his arrest.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Magnitsky died in prison after exposing the $230 million scheme (Photo: Hermitage Capital)

The Russian prosecutor general’s office told Russian media on Thursday (24 August) it had sent “objections” to Interpol after the agency declined to put Browder on its “wanted list” based on a Russian request in June.

But Russia's action still caused an incident at Heathrow airport in the UK on 3 August.

Staff stopped Browder from flying to the US because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had deleted his visa waiver.

The DHS promptly reinstated it, but Browder told EUobserver that the glitch was linked to the Interpol alert. “Yes. I was informed by people connected to US law enforcement that it was,” he said.

Browder said it was “not clear what actions Interpol did or did not take on the basis of Russia's request”.

Interpol declined to say what it did.

It told this website on Thursday that it "examined" each “red notice” to ensure that it did not have “a political, military, religious, or racial character.”

But the police agency also circulates other alerts, such as “diffusions”, which undergo less scrutiny.

Magnitsky affair

Browder used to run a hedge fund in Russia. He became a human rights campaigner after he and his accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, exposed a $230 million corruption scheme.

Money from the scheme has since been traced to the inner circle of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Fallout from the affair has also reached the highest levels of US politics.

Browder spoke in July to a Senate committee on Russia’s meddling in the US election after it emerged that a Russian lobbyist on the Magnitsky case had met US president Donald Trump’s son.

The lobbyist, Natalia Veselnitskaya, wanted help to quash the Magnitsky Act, a US law inspired by Browder that enables it to seize corrupt Russian assets abroad.

Magnitsky died in prison in 2009. Russia then convicted him (posthumously) and Browder (in absentia) of having masterminded the $230 million fraud.

The Interpol request was “linked to Russia's retaliation against my broader work of promoting the Magnitsky Act,” Browder told EUobserver.

EU pressure

The request was Russia's fourth on Browder in recent years. Interpol rejected previous ones on grounds they were “political in nature”.

The police agency, which is based in Lyon, France, has no outside oversight.

But Browder said EU states should force it to mend its ways.

“There needs to be serious sanctions for countries like Russia that routinely abuse Interpol for political purposes,” he said.

“The EU makes up a significant share of the Interpol budget and if it stepped in to demand these types of sanctions, they would be implemented overnight”, he said.

Interpol also took flak last week when Spanish police arrested a Turkish dissident ho was accused of terrorism by Turkish authorities.

Dogan Akhanli, a Turkish writer with German citizenship, later told press: “I thought I was safe in Europe. I thought Turkish arrogance cannot reach Europe, but ... this is not quite true”.

German chancellor Angela Merkel urged Turkey not to “misuse” Interpol.

Some German MPs called for Interpol reform.

Interpol hit lists

The Kremlin has routinely used the police agency to go after its enemies in Europe.

Browder aside, its Interpol hit list has included Ilya Katsnelson, a US businessman in Denmark, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian activist in the UK, Petr Silaev, a Russian activist in Finland, and Eerik Kross, a politician in Estonia.

Belarus, Kazakhstan, Iran, Turkey, and others use Interpol the same way.

Germany itself, in 2015, arrested Ahmed Mansour, a journalist from the Al-Jazeera news agency, on an Interpol notice filed by Egypt.

'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.

Opinion

Interpol and the EU: don't play politics

Debate on the EU police agency threatens to undermine its neutrality and the treatment of individuals who cannot enlist political support.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us