Turkey among blatant Red Notice abusers - FP

A handful of authoritarian states, including Turkey, are abusing Interpol's red notice system to track down, frighten and potentially detain dissidents, U.S. news outlet Foreign Policy reported on Monday. 

Since the failed coup in July 2016, Turkey has sought to use Interpol to pursue its critics abroad, particularly those linked to the Gülen movement, which it blames for the coup attempt. Shortly after the coup, Ankara reportedly sent 60,000 red notice requests to Interpol.

In October, Turkey called on Interpol to issue red notices for two journalists, Can Dündar, former Cumhuriyet editor, and Ilhan Tanır, the editor of Ahval's English-language site. "I have not killed anyone, run a cartel, robbed a bank or done anything else to warrant a global manhunt," Tanır wrote in response. "The Turkish government is pursuing me for my activities as a journalist."

Red notices are only for people accused of serious crimes, and Interpol’s constitution calls on countries not to use the system for political ends and to act within the spirit of international human rights standards. Ankara, and countries like China, Russia, and the UAE, are in blatant violation of these regulations, said Foreign Policy. 

Yet the number of Red Notices issued has spiked in recent years, from about 1400 in 2001 to more than 13,000 in 2017, thanks in part to a web-based system that has streamlined the filing process. 

“The old system was not worth abusing, because it was so slow,” Theodore Bromund, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Foreign Policy. He fears that abuse has increased as authoritarian leaders have learned they can use it to disrupt the lives of dissidents outside their borders, even if they’re not ultimately extradited. “In other words, dictators are learning from each other,” he said.

In some countries, a red notice can lead to the cancellation of a visa, rendering a person undocumented and resulting in detention. But sometimes nothing happens; Interpol lists some Red Notices on its website, but not all. Many people don’t find out they are wanted until they are arrested, lawyers told Foreign Policy. 

“It’s a police organisation, and we accept that there may be certain types of information that they may not be able to disclose,” said Bruno Min, an advisor with Fair Trials, a global criminal justice watchdog. “But we have been concerned about the lack of information that would help to illustrate the problem.”

Interpol has instituted several reforms in recent years in a bid to crack down on illegitimate red notice requests, said Foreign Policy. It is now prohibited to issue red notices against people with refugee status if the notice comes from the country they fled. But there are still no penalties for countries that misuse the system.

“Despite some of these reforms that we’ve seen, Interpol is still a major obstacle for peaceful activists around the world,” said Steve Swerdlow, a Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.