Interpol presidency: West warns against Russia candidate | News | DW | 20.11.2018
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Interpol presidency: West warns against Russia candidate

Critics have sounded the alarm ahead of a pivotal vote on the new president of Interpol on Wednesday. Russia's candidate is favorite to take the reins of the global policing organization.

A stream of international critics has called upon Interpol not to proceed with plans to install a Russian candidate as its new president.

Alexander Prokopchuk, a Russian interior ministry official and current vice president, is likely to be voted in for the top job on Wednesday during Interpol's annual conference in Dubai.

Former President Meng Hongwei is currently detained in China on bribery charges.

US Senators, Russian opposition groups, Kremlin critics, and German and European politicians have warned of the dangers of allowing an ally of Vladimir Putin to lead the global policing organization.

The Kremlin has denounced the criticism as flagrant interference.

Here is what people had to say:

Read more: Interpol: Who polices the world's police?

Chief of the Russian Interior Ministry's National Central Bureau of Interpol, Major General Alexander Prokopchuk.

Chief of the Russian Interior Ministry's National Central Bureau of Interpol, Major General Alexander Prokopchuk

Germany

The German government was loathe to comment officially on the matter, however a series of German politicians from most major parties made it clear that Prokopchuk would not be a welcome appointment.

Lawmakers said Prokopchuk had a clear history of sending politically-motivated Interpol Red Notices during his time as head of Interpol-Russia, in attempts to extradite dissidents and businessmen.

Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, told mass-circulation daily Bild: "As a leading member of the Russian security apparatus, Alexander Prokopchuk is part of Vladimir Putin's circle of power." He said it was clear Prokopchuk would use the position to continue Russian abuse of the "red notice" system.

"He is therefore unsuitable as president for the international police authority, which we urgently need as a politically-independent institution to meet challenges such as international terrorism," Röttgen said.

Three foreign-affairs-focused members of the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) said they supported the only other candidate, Kim Jong Yang from South Korea, as should the government.

The FDP's foreign police spokesman Bijan Djir-Sarai told Bild: "In such a role (Prokopchuk) would have access to Interpol's invaluable information and strategies. In light of current Russian politics, his appointment would be unjustifiable."

The Greens' Manuel Sarrazin told the paper: "It is unacceptable that Germany should not oppose this kind of personnel and thus this practice within the framework of Interpol."

Read more: German intelligence agency spied on Interpol and news organizations: Spiegel

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Interpol chief’s arrest in China leaves many puzzled

Rest of Europe

Ukraine has threatened to pull out of the organization if Prokopchuk is appointed. Likewise, Lithuania also said it would consider withdrawing.

British Foreign Office minister Harriet Baldwin told parliament that London would support Yang's bid.  "We always seek to endorse candidates who have a history of observing standards of international behavior," she said.

The US

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also officially endorsed Kim Jong Yang, currently serving as interim president.

A bipartisan group of US senators published an open letter this week, saying the election of Prokopchuk would be like "putting a fox in charge of a henhouse."

 "Russia routinely abuses Interpol for the purpose of settling scores and harassing political opponents, dissidents and journalists," they wrote, saying Prokopchuk has been "personally involved" in this strategy.

Bill Brower

Businessman Bill Browder is being targeted by Russian authorities over the jailhouse death of his whistleblower lawyer

Kremlin critics

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Twitter: "Our team has suffered from abuse of Interpol for political persecution by Russia … I don't think that a president from Russia will help to reduce such violations."

Two prominent Kremlin critics targeted with arrest held a joint press conference to denounce the idea, saying they wanted Russia kicked out of the organization.

Financier Bill Browder, who Russia has long sought for supposedly ordering the killing of his own lawyer (who happened to accuse Russian officials of a $230 million (€200 million) tax fraud), said the Russian candidacy was an attempt by Putin to "expand his criminal tentacles to every corner of the globe."

Mikhail Khodorkovsky — an exiled, former oil baron who spent 10 years in a Russian jail said Russia frequently abused the "red notice" system.

"Appointing such a person to the head of the international policing organization would not only damage the reputation of all Interpol member states, but would carry a grave threat to those who may be considered potential victims of political persecution," said Khodorkovsky.

Read more: Is the EU kowtowing to the Kremlin on Magnitsky sanctions?

Russian response

Moscow's Interior Ministry denounced the criticism as a "foreign media campaign aimed at discrediting Russia's candidate," calling him a respected professional.

"Alexander Prokopchuk has many years of experience working in the law enforcement sphere and is currently Interpol's vice president... which confirms the trust and high esteem in which his work in this international organization is held."

If elected, he would carry out his duties solely in Interpol's own interests, the ministry said.

Asked about the senators' statement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it amounted to meddling in the vote. "It's interference in the electoral process, in elections at an international body," Peskov said.

What is Interpol?

The Lyon-based organization helps police forces around the work cooperate outside their borders. One of its most public tasks is issuing "red notices," allowing countries to alert other countries to pursue wanted suspects.

However the system has been abused, critics say, allowing authoritarian states to stifle dissent by rounding up political opponents, journalists and activists outside their borders

Two years ago the organization took measures to strengthen the legal framework around the red notice system, checking compliance with its regulations before sending a notice out.

Interpol's general assembly is made up of member states, each of which has an equal vote in membership and leadership.

The presidency is largely ceremonial, but oversees the executive committee, which decides Interpol's strategy and direction.

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Rob Wainwright on Conflict Zone

aw/rt (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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