One of the key principles of Interpol, other than its purpose as a global policing network, is its political neutrality. It does not concern itself with any religious, racial, military, or political theatricals. Interpol’s focus is or at least, should be combating transnational crimes; from organised crime and illicit global drug manufacturing, to genocide and terrorism. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly as with all things in international relations, global powers and external interests have remained all-too rampant. And Interpol is no exception.
Interpol’s attempts at remaining political neutral, despite being a product of state cooperation throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, is almost utopian in nature. Any effort to reform its policing mechanisms has either been subjected to death at the hands of the stringent bureaucratic systems, or have fallen upon deaf ears. It has become too difficult to assume that an organisation with a foundation in state compliance can truly maintain its independence and integrity when many of its member states operate under different rules of law, or the lack of one altogether. While not all member states take advantage of the Notices System, when it comes to various crimes against humanity, such as terrorism, the rules have been moulded abstractly in order to achieve political goals. Take the abuses made by Erdogan’s government for example. After the July 2016 coup, the Turkish government had tried to upload around 60,000 names into Interpol’s system which led to many supporters of the coup being ‘Red Noticed’ and therefore, known around the globe as international criminals. While Interpol assumes a same degree of equality amongst all member states, it cannot truly function while some are corrupt and keen on abusing the systems in place. Besides Turkey’s abuses, this can also be seen clearly through the rest of Interpol’s “most wanted list”. It has often included individuals on political grounds from activists such as Benny Wenda and Petr Silaev, to refugees and asylum seekers such as Venezuelan investigative journalist Patricia Poleo. Interpol’s position as a juggernaut in information intelligence has consequently opened opportunities for politically motivated abuse, regardless of its constitution barring such activities.
But how can we argue against the member states when the very leaders of Interpol are corrupt? The previous President of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, a Chinese politician, illustrates this issue perfectly. His election to the position in late 2016 was seen as the perfect opportunity for China to solidify its global position and accumulate influence within international organisations. As it was expected, his tenure witnessed increased requests from the Chinese government to apprehend state critics, alongside requests for resources in locating expats. While his term ended prematurely due to corruption charges, this has subsequently left a power vacuum in Interpol, with nearly each global power banking on a President to establish an influential foothold in the organisation. Meng’s presumptive successor, Russian Alexander Prokopchuk, was seen by the United States as a means for Russia to abuse Interpol’s powers including the Red Notice System to silence Russian dissenters and opponents. In the American view, Prokopchuk’s election would have only been an extension to Russia’s own policing system. What is more, it would have also advanced Kremlin’s influence into the international realm. However, the election process was ultimately unsuccessful in Prokopchuk’s favour, instead giving way to South Korea’s Kim Jong Yang to Western members’ delight.
The credibility and integrity of Interpol, through a series of mishandlings, has become seriously under threat and undermined, primarily due to its incapability to prevent the abuse of its system by known corrupt members. The fault extends to the bureaucratic positions held by politicians, each backed by member states with the attempt to support national interests more-so than the promotion of true justice and the rule of law. This shift in primacies, from globalism to state-centralism, threatens the basis of universal lawful cooperation. The mechanism warranting just action is instead being used for unjust premises. Indeed, while cases of abuse are often the exception and not the rule, they still warrant a considerable needed degree of deliberation, reformation, and vigilance to combat the harmful misuse of Interpol.