Monday

27th Mar 2023

Boycott threats mount on eve of Interpol election

  • China's Interpol chief vanished earlier this year (Photo: interpol.int)

Lithuania has threatened to quit Interpol, along with Ukraine, if the international police agency elects a Russian official as its new president on Wednesday (21 November).

Its parliament voted 88 to nil on a resolution on Tuesday, saying that "if Mr Prokopchuk was elected head of Interpol, Lithuania, together with other democracies, should immediately consider withdrawing from this organisation".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Alexander Prokopchuk was in charge of Russia's politically-motivated Interpol alerts before joining its HQ in Lyon (Photo: interpol.org)

Alexander Prokopchuk, a 56-year old Russian interior ministry official, led Russia's Interpol Bureau, in charge of cooperation with the agency, for five years before becoming Interpol's vice-president in 2016.

He needs two-thirds of the 177 Interpol member states which are attending its meeting in Dubai this week to vote for him to win.

Each member of the agency has an equal vote, no matter what its size.

The president serves for four years. He chairs meetings of its executive committee, which decides on the broad strategy of the agency.

The president has no official role in day-to-day actions, such as issuing "red notices" urging member states' police forces to hunt down suspects.

But he can exert informal influence on operational activities.

His brief tenure as vice-president has not seen anyone inside the agency complain about his behaviour.

But his nomination is controversial because he was directly involved in instigating politically-motivated red notices against Kremlin opponents in his previous role as Moscow's Interpol Bureau chief.

His best known victims were Bill Browder, a British campaigner for sanctions on Russia, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian oil tycoon in exile in the UK who campaigns for human rights in Russia.

But Prokopchuk also targeted others, such as Petr Silaev, a Russian environmentalist living in Finland, and Eerik Kross, a Russia-critical Estonian politician, on charges which Interpol ultimately rejected, prior to moving to his vice-president post at Interpol's HQ in Lyon, France.

His nomination is also controversial because Russia has continued to abuse Interpol structures since he went there, because of its lack of rule of law at home, and because of its aggressive behaviour in Europe.

Russia, together with its EU ally, Hungary, this year went after Zsolt Hernadi, an executive at an energy firm competing with a Russian one in Hungary.

Moscow, in May, also tried and failed to get hold of Browder one more time by issuing a lower level Interpol alert called a "diffusion", which led to his brief arrest in Spain.

It signalled on Monday that its campaign would continue by accusing Browder of having poisoned his business associates.

Ukraine

Olga Skabeeva, a host on Russia's state-owned Russia-1 TV channel, also indicated why Ukraine has threatened to quit if Russia gets its hands on the top job.

"We'll put the entire government of Ukraine in prison," if Prokopchuk gets in, she said.

For its part, the UK has said it would be voting for Kim Jong Yang, a South Korean candidate instead.

But Harriet Baldwin, speaking for the foreign office in parliament on Tuesday, did not react to calls by some MPs, including senior ones from the ruling Conservative party, to follow Lithuania and Ukraine out of the door.

Germany and the US have also resisted calls to formally oppose Prokopchuk's election despite calls by cross-party groups of politicians.

But Prokopchuk was "unelectable" as Interpol president due to his "multiple abuses of the red notice instrument to pursue political opponents", Norbert Roettgen, a centre-right German MP who chairs the foreign affairs committee in the Bundestag, said on Tuesday.

The US state department also said: "We are actively and broadly engaged with Interpol member states to underscore the need to elect someone who will promote, not undermine, the values and practices that make Interpol such a vital international body".

The avalanche of criticism from Kremlin critics, Western diplomats, and NGOs was denounced by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as "meddling in the electoral process, in elections to an international organisation" on Tuesday.

Chinese disappearance

Interpol last attracted similar criticism two years ago when it chose a Chinese security official, Meng Hongwei, to be its head, due to China's abysmal human rights record.

But he vanished earlier this year and resigned from his post via an unsigned letter, amid speculation that he fell foul of internal intrigues in Beijing.

The police agency was created almost 100 years ago, when it was first called the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC), and is an independent international body with no outside oversight.

If Lithuania, Ukraine, and others boycott Interpol over Prokopchuk's election, it would amount to the second such event in the agency's history, after most members suspended cooperation between 1938 and 1945, when its presidents were a succession of four officers from the elite SS squad in Nazi Germany's armed forces.

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

Exclusive

Sweden waters down EU press-freedom law

Press-freedom groups from Paris to New York have voiced dismay at Sweden's proposal to weaken a landmark EU law against corporate and political bullies.

Top EU prosecutor wants elite corps of specialised investigators

Europe's top prosecutor Laura Kovesi wants to create an elite corps of highly-specialised financial fraud investigators. The demand came in Kovesi's introduction to the annual report published by the Luxembourg-based European Public Prosector's Office.

Opinion

Why can't we stop marches glorifying Nazism on EU streets?

Every year, neo-Nazis come together to pay tribute to Nazi war criminals and their collaborators, from Benito Mussolini to Rudolf Hess, Ante Pavelić, Hristo Lukov, and of course Adolf Hitler, in events that have become rituals on the extreme-right calendar.

Latest News

  1. Biden's 'democracy summit' poses questions for EU identity
  2. Finnish elections and Hungary's Nato vote in focus This WEEK
  3. EU's new critical raw materials act could be a recipe for conflict
  4. Okay, alright, AI might be useful after all
  5. Von der Leyen pledges to help return Ukrainian children
  6. EU leaders agree 1m artillery shells for Ukraine
  7. Polish abortion rights activist vows to appeal case
  8. How German business interests have shaped EU climate agenda

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality
  5. Promote UkraineInvitation to the National Demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine on 25.02.2023
  6. Azerbaijan Embassy9th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and 1st Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us