Safeguarding non refoulement within Interpol’s mechanisms

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The Centre for Peace Studies is a civil society organization dealing with, among other issues, protection of human rights of refugees. We are advocating prevention of further persecution of refugees by their country of origin. INTERPOL’s Red Notices and Diffusions are at the disposal of refugees’ countries of origin, in the same way they are at the disposal of any other Interpol’s member state. These mechanisms can and have been used by refugees’ countries of origin with the view of further persecuting these people for political or any other illicit reason.

We recognise the indisputable role of INTERPOL in fighting crime, but we also believe that it has powers and responsibilities under international law to prevent such practices. Further persecution of these people and their return to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened poses an act in contravention of international customary law and, arguably, ius cogens. Such an act also contravenes INTERPOL’s Constitution prohibiting activities of political, military, religious or racial character. 

Recent cases we have been involved in show that, when such people are apprehended based on Red Notices and Diffusions and subjected to extradition procedure, extradition courts may not even examine human rights considerations, including their refugee status and the principle of non-refoulement, but only look into formal aspects of the case (double criminality, statute of limitations etc.). And even with the just and fair outcome of the case, i.e. a decision to refuse their extradition, these people are unnecessarily and unduly subjected to prison, re-traumatisation and fear. 

To stop such practices we organised trainings for judges and officials on human right aspects of extradition procedures. Furthermore, we organised the International Conference on the Conflict between asylum and extradition which was held in Zagreb on 11th and 12th of December 2014. The Conference inspired recommendations to improve the system on different levels. The recommendations were directed towards INTERPOL, institutions and bodies of the national states and EU institutions. 

The Centre for Peace Studies presented the recommendations at the side event that Fair Trials International  organized at the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice that was held in Doha, Qatar, from 12th to 19th of April, 2015. The side event entitled “Cross-Border Crime and Human Rights: The Challenge for INTERPOL“ focused on the challenges that human rights violations pose to the system of INTERPOL. At the panel, it was concluded that without urgent reform of the systems INTERPOL, human rights of refugees are continuously at risk of being violated the question was raised whether refugees are truly granted protection from persecution, or not.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

1.INTERPOL should delete Red Notices and Diffusions for refugees issued by their countries of origin. This relates to refugees according to 1951 Refugee Convention. As regards people who were granted any other form of international protection which safeguards their beneficiaries from refoulement, their status should give rise to consider a deletion of Red Notices and Diffusions.  

2.INTERPOL should establish a transparent procedure with regards to data sharing. In particular, this concerns data being fed to countries of origin of refugees.

3.The body that has some power of review over the Red Notices and Diffusions at INTERPOL is the Commission for Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF). They meet three or four times a year to review files. However, their role is of primary advisory. The establishment of an independent body which has the authority to review Red Notices on a regular basis and ensure that human rights principles are respected would be the minimal standard. In addition, it is recommended that INTERPOL should further increase the capacities of CCF to combat abuse. It is noted that the expertise of CCF in human rights violations in certain countries should be strengthened and civil society organizations should be included in their work. CCF’s decisions should be binding.

4.A list of indicators that would show possible violation of human rights should be created and applied. Red Notices and Diffusions which are published selectively, as well as “draft” Red Notices should be under stricter scrutiny to prevent human rights violations. At the moment there are no mechanisms to hinder or deter state parties from using INTERPOL’s instruments to achieve goals outside of the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

5.National police authorities and NCB’s should have at least the possibility, if not the obligation, to report any suspicion that a certain Red Notice or Diffusion would in its effects abuse the INTERPOL’s system and violate human rights of a person under international protection. 

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