Russia is abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents, according to a new report. Such requests can mean that the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts.
Interpol’s 190 member countries can apply for what’s called Red Notices — urgent requests for the arrest and extradition of criminal suspects on other members’ territory. Report author David Satter of the Henry Jackson Society, a British-based research group focused on foreign policy and human rights, said such notices "are very easy to get. And Interpol operates on trust. So Interpol is ripe to be abused.”
“There are many people in Russia who are unfairly charged," Satter added. "They’re charged for political reasons. Russia is habitually taking these false charges to Interpol and making it difficult if not impossible for these people to travel.”
Russia maintains the accused have charges to answer for and insists they would face a fair trial.
Among those who have been subjected to Red Notice requests by Russia is Bill Browder, chief executive of Hermitage Capital, an investment fund and asset management company specializing in Russian markets. Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was killed in prison in 2009 after being jailed for his efforts to investigate state corruption.
Moscow charged Browder with fraud and requested a Red Notice for his arrest, which was turned down. Speaking last month, Browder said he feared for his life.
“They're trying to do things like have me extradited back to Russia, send Interpol after me and various other types of administrative actions," he said. "But if they saw an opening when they could do it and not get caught, they would kill me in a heartbeat.”
Last October, a Bulgarian court ruled against a Red Notice requesting the extradition to Russia of Kremlin political opponent Nikolay Koblyakov on fraud charges. Koblyakov said the decision was vital to uphold European principles of justice.
Interpol highlights its independent monitoring body, the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files, which is designed to avoid potential abuse. “But it doesn’t work very well and it doesn’t work in all cases," Satter said. "And if countries like Russia are going to continually abuse the institutions of Interpol, then those institutions should not be available to them.”
Interpol declined to be interviewed, but it issued a statement rejecting claims that it is open to abuse and saying that it is up to each country to decide what legal value to give Red Notices within their borders.