06 June 2023
Interpol must do more to prevent the Turkish government misusing its databases to target political dissidents abroad, says an open letter to the organisation's secretary-general signed by more than 25 individuals and organisations, including Statewatch. The letter calls for Turkey to be suspended from using Interpol databases - in particular, the Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) system - until the problem is dealt with.
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The letter was coordinated by Arrested Lawyers Initiative.
5 June 2023
Dear Secretary General Stock,
We, the undersigned, are concerned about Turkey’s misuse of INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Document (SLTD) system, and about INTERPOL’s ability to adhere to its human rights obligations by implementing protections against such misuse.
It is widely reported that the Turkish Government is deliberately misusing INTERPOL’s SLTD database to circumvent the formal extradition process and to evade INTERPOL’s controls of Notices and Diffusions. Turkish authorities misuse the SLTD mechanism by improperly recording as lost or stolen or revoked or invalid the passports of dissidents in an attempt to have them deported to Turkey where they face political reprisals.
The Nordic Research Monitoring Network has published leaked documents from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization showing that the country abuses INTERPOL’s SLTD system to bypass a set of restrictions imposed on Turkey’s access to the Red Notice database.[i]
INTERPOL is required by its Constitution not to take any action of a political nature and to comply with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR). Freedom of movement is a fundamental human right enshrined in the UDHR and the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Turkish Constitutional Court has repeatedly ruled that the revocation or invalidation of passports by the Government is unlawful because the revocation of travel documents must only be done by court order. Despite the rulings, over 300,000 Turkish citizens remain banned from travelling because their passports have been unconstitutionally cancelled.
Any use of INTERPOL’s SLTD database to record a passport as lost, stolen, or revoked without evidence of a court order will be in direct violation of INTERPOL’s Constitution and Rules. We, the undersigned, request that, as a matter of urgent priority, INTERPOL adopts measures to prevent abuse of its SLTD database and to immediately delete all non-compliant data on the SLTD database.
A 2019 study commissioned by the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights recommended that INTERPOL ‘should take steps to hold the NCBs accountable for their misapplication of Interpol rules and regulations, applying Articles 130 and 131 of the RPD.[ii] The Notices and Diffusions Task Force can request additional information from NCBs in order to decide whether a Notice is compliant. We recommend implementing a similar review mechanism for the SLTD database to protect INTERPOL from misuse and individuals from human rights violations.
Please find attached a detailed report on how Turkey misuses INTERPOL’s SLTD database and case studies demonstrating the associated risks and human rights violations.[iii]
The Arrested Lawyers Initiative, Belgium
Patrick Breyer, Member of the European Parliament
Dr Theodore Bromund
William Browder, Head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign
Nicola Canestrini, Italian human rights lawyer
Javier Cremades, President of the World Jurist Association
Clare Daly, Member of the European Parliament
Rhys Davies, UK Barrister, Editor of Red Notice Monitor
Gunnar Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General of The Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Michelle Estlund, US Attorney
Enes Kanter Freedom, US
Human Rights Foundation, US
Human Rights Defenders, Germany
Italian Federation for Human Rights (FIDU), Italy
Ben Keith, UK Barrister, Editor of Red Notice Monitor
Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws KC, Member of the UK House of Lords and Chair of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute
Yuriy L. Nemets, Esq., US Attorney
Dr Anna Oehmichen, German human rights lawyer
Professor Laurent Pech, The Good Lobby, Belgium
Marie-Aimée Peyron, Vice President Conseil National des Barreaux-Bâtonnier de Paris (2018-2019)
Roger Sahota, UK Solicitor, Editor of Red Notice Monitor
Professor Antonio Stango, President of the Italian Federation for Human Rights
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Mick Wallace, member of the European Parliament
Ali Yildiz, Brussels-based human rights lawyer
[i] https://nordicmonitor.com/2021/08/turkey-set-a-plan-in-motion-to-manipulate-interpol-in-hunting-down-critics-opponents/ [ii] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document/EXPO_STU(2019)603472
The Commission’s initiative for a ‘Security-related information sharing system between frontline officers in the EU and key partner countries’ is a further development along the path of problematic border externalisation, and a trend of increasing use of large-scale processing of the personal data of non-EU citizens for combined criminal law and immigration control purposes, that civil society has been speaking out against for years.
Under the Pact on Migration and Asylum, the “screening” of migrants who have entered the EU irregularly or who have applied for asylum will become mandatory. The aim is to establish their identity and to investigate whether they should be considered a “security risk”. To facilitate the screening process, access to the EU’s system of “interoperable” databases is being broadened, with the Council recently approving its negotiating position on new rules granting access to a centralised register of individuals convicted of criminal offences in EU member states.
Civil society organisations, elected representatives and other prominent public figures are calling on Interpol to take steps to prevent the abuse of international policing databases and alert systems by authoritarian and dictatorial regimes. A resolution sent to the policing organisation a week before its 89th General Assembly calls for the protection of human rights by the full implementation of recommendations made by the Council of Europe and European Parliament. Statewatch is one of the signatories of the resolution.
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