Having been around for the better part of a century now, one would think that Interpol had garnered some respect around the world. This may be true in the case of most member police departments that utilize the services of the Interpol system, but Interpol has faced some harsh critiques of late.
Some of the activities that the agency is now being accused of seem to mirror the actions of the Nazi’s when they had control of the program during WWII. Using the information databases to track down, detain and generally slow the movement of political oppositions by certain governments has become more of an issue recently.
While Interpol has attempted to place itself neutrally in political matters, the fact still remains that certain governments take advantage of the sizeable network and database that have been built through Interpol’s years of existence.
China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Kazakhstan are among the countries named that frequently abuse the system, using its operation mechanisms to detain and harass not only political refugees but also human rights activists, journalists, and even businessmen.
In 2014, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, also known as PACE, decided to examine the abuse on a large scale and furnish a report, which led to a hearing where both spokespeople from Interpol and other non-governmental agencies were allowed to present information.
There were 44 cases brought to light, 18 in Russia alone, where the person being harassed was being done so under political reasons. Interpol recognized some of these as cases as politically motivated and removed these people from the watchlist. Still, the likelihood of a red card being removed from an individuals name is unlikely unless the issuing country closes the case against them.
In 2013, there was concern over deals made between Interpol and the pharmaceutical industry, FIFA, and companies like Phillip Morris. Distress over what appears to be flagrant bribes (to the tune of millions of dollars) from these big names, has driven the call for much-needed reform for Interpol.
The Open Dialogue Foundation, which played a massive role in the hearings just a couple of years prior, made a recommendation that Interpol devise a system to ‘police’ the information mechanisms in its system by introducing penalties for nations which abuse the network for political gain. It was also suggested that Interpol work closer with human rights NGO’s and better protect the rights of those under refugee status.
Two other organizations seconded these recommendations and added a couple of their own. The Centre for Peace Studies suggested an independent investigation of Red Notices on a regular basis, and Fair Trials International wants to see monetary fines for governments who exploit Interpol’s systems.
After such a long life, Interpol now faces a choice. Either serious overhaul of their internal operating processes or potentially be replaced by a new organization with stronger boundaries that will not allow non-democratic countries such freedom to use the system and process so clandestinely.