Interpol through a Russian lens

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ICPO-Interpol Headquarters in Lyon, France (Massimiliano Mariani/Wikimedia Commons)

Will Canada advocate for suspending Russia from the global policing organization?

On November 22, following the Interpol’s presidential election where the Russian Interior Ministry officer, Alexander Prokopchuk, was one of the candidates who received 61 out of 194 votes, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security of the Canadian Parliament held a meeting on the use and misuse of Interpol.

Representatives of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Sgt Ross Cameron and Chief Supt. Scott Doran, in the course of their statement and while answering questions of the Committee-members introduced a Canadian perspective of Interpol and Canada’s degree of subordination to the international policing. At the same time, the questions predominantly raised parliamentarians’ concerns on Russian active involvement in Interpol’s procedures in order to allegedly pursue political and geopolitical goals. Russia’s aggressive campaign to put “their person in charge of Interpol;” a constant abuse of a red notice system by the Kremlin to “target political foes or opponents of the Putin regime;” and Russian lobby against Kosovo within the organization were among the main concerns.

“A country that many view as a kleptocracy, as a gangster state, is not only a member of the organization but has its key official on the board that makes very important decisions in terms of international policing,” stated the Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj.

During a second part of the meeting, individual testimonies were presented by the Kremlin critics – William Browder, Garry Kasparov, and Marcus Kolga. The Hermitage Capital CEO, William Browder, whose lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Russian prison, and the Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov testified how Russia abused the global police organization by issuing politically motivated red notices to go after political activists. In turn, Marcus Kolga, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Centre for Advancing Canada’s Interests Abroad, elaborated on how Canadians and other foreigners could become targets while Russia used practices of trials in absentia and issuing red notices through Interpol based on those cases.

On the same day, in his interview with CBC Radio, William Browder urged Canada to lead on suspending Russia from the Interpol system in accordance with a provision of the organization’s constitution allowing this to happen when a country constantly abuses its institution. This provision has never been used, and he thinks that “now is the time.” As reported by Browder, his goal to stand before the Committee was to get their commitment to pass the need for change in Interpol to the Canadian government. And he believes that “there is an appetite for that among the Committee members.” Although Canada might be joined by the USA and the UK in this process, “all it takes is one country to take the lead here,” said Browder.

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