How Russia Abuses Interpol – And How To Stop It
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How Russia Abuses Interpol – And How To Stop It
25 September @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pmFree
It is widely recognised that Russia abuses Interpol. Russia uses the International Criminal Police Organization to harass dissidents, political opponents, human rights activists, and businessmen who have fallen foul of Vladimir Putin’s regime. What is less well recognised, however, is how Russia does this – the mechanisms that Russia abuses, and the ways this abuse works.
The Henry Jackson Society is proud to invite you to an event with Dr. Bromund who will explain how Interpol works, how Russia – and other autocratic regimes – abuse Interpol, and what the UK government can and should do to stop this abuse.
Dr. Ted R. Bromund is a Senior Research Fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom. He has written extensively on Interpol for The Heritage Foundation and other outlets and has served as an expert witness in Interpol cases in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Dr. Bromund is a columnist for Newsday and Forbes. He received his PhD for his thesis on Britain’s first application to the European Economic Community in 1999 from Yale University, where he served for nine years as a lecturer in history and Associate Director of International Security Studies
The Henry Jackson Society was delighted to host Dr. Ted R. Bromund on the 25th September to hear his thoughts on Interpol and particularly the increasing abuse of its network by Russia. Dr Bromund is a Senior Research Fellow in The Heritage’s Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom where he has established himself as an expert on Interpol, writing widely for the Heritage Foundation, Newsday, and Forbes while also working as an expert witness in Interpol cases in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. The talk was hosted by Sophia Gaston, the Director of the Centre for Social and Political Risk at the Henry Jackson Society.
Dr Bromund began by explaining that contrary to the common impression of Interpol as an agency that makes arrests across the world, Interpol is in fact an administrative body that serves as an international bulletin board for police agencies. One of the key founding principles of Interpol is that all 192 member states are treated as equals and all actions of all state taken through Interpol are viewed as having equal legitimacy.
Unfortunately, this is allowing some states, including Russia, to take advantage of the Interpol for political purposes and to use it to pursue vendettas instead of ordinary criminals. The most common routes of abuse are the Red Notice, which tells all Interpol member states that the requesting nation wishes to extradite an individual, or a ‘diffusion’, which is a state-to-state communication that can serve the same purposes as Red Notice. These measures restrict travel, lead to arrests and extradition, and often result in exclusion from the international financial system and the closure of bank accounts.
Dr Bromund explained that Russia, and other autocratic nations, are increasingly issuing Red Notices and diffusions against individuals who oppose their regimes. The most high-profile case is Russia’s campaign against Mr Bill Browder, a venture capitalist whose business was taken over by Vladimir Putin, leading eventually to the death of Mr Browder’s lawyer Mr Sergei Magnitsky and a campaign of harassment using Interpol by Russia against Mr Browder. Dr Bromund explained that the process of applying for a Red Notice or diffusion is as simple as filling in an online form and that Interpol does not check the validity of the arrest warrant or its underlying justice, which allows autocratic nations to abuse Interpol with near-impunity. Dr Bromund noted that Mr Browder is hardly the only victim: many individuals with less ability to defend themselves are abused via Interpol .
Dr Bromund went on to set out steps that could realistically be taken. Firstly, while acknowledging that the expulsion of any member nation of Interpol is extremely unlikely, fourteen democracies are responsible for 74% of Interpol’s funding. Dr Bromund suggests this financial leverage should be put to work to change the leadership of Interpol and to encourage Interpol to suspend abusive member nations for the maximum time allowed by Interpol’s rules. Democracies should withhold the data they share with Interpol from abusive nations.
As it is impossible for Interpol to review each of the approximately 15,000 Red Notices published yearly for abuse, Dr Bromund emphasised that it is the culture of Interpol and its member states that needs to change. He also emphasised that all of his recommendations were entirely legal under Interpol’s own constitution and within the powers of its Executive Committee and General Assembly. The problem was that the leadership of Interpol, and its democratic members, were too reluctant to use their powers.
For example, when Turkey requested 60,000 Red Notices at once after the purported coup attempt in 2016, which would have doubled the number of valid Red Notices in circulation, Interpol refused the request but took no action against Turkey and did not even criticise it. The European vice-chair of Interpol, Dr Bromund noted, is Aleksandr Prokopchuk, who was formally the head of Russia’s National Central Bureau — which deals with Interpol — and who is therefore personally responsible for past Russian abuses of the system.
This event was an eye-opening perspective on an organization that most people are aware of but which few know much about. We are grateful to Dr Bromund for sharing his expertise and his thoughts on Interpol as well as the wider point he made that Interpol’s problems are emblematic of both the problems with international organisations more broadly and the threat posed by autocratic nations to the liberal international order.
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