Turkey will grow its presence at INTERPOL by increasing its number of liaison officers in the General Secretariat and nominating more candidates for senior positions within the organization, newly elected member of INTERPOL’s Executive Committee Selçuk Sevgel said on Thursday in an interview with the state-run Anadolu news agency.
According to Sevgel, head of the Turkish National Police’s INTERPOL-Europol department, a new chapter has begun in Turkey’s relations with INTERPOL following the election of a Turkish official to the organization’s Executive Committee after a long hiatus.
The Turkish government has been critical of INTERPOL for refusing most of its requests based on Article 3 of the organization’s constitution, which stipulates that “It is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.”
Speaking to journalists about INTERPOL’s General Assembly, which was held in İstanbul November 23-25, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said the organization has been rejecting Turkey’s Red Notice requests since an abortive coup on July 15, 2016 that his government blames on the Gülen movement.
According to Soylu, since the coup attempt 982 of Turkey’s Red Notice requests were denied by the INTERPOL, compared to only 100 in the 20 years between 1996 and 2016.
According to Sevgel in addition to the issues raised with respect to Article 3 of the INTERPOL Constitution, organization officials also cite the lack of recognition of the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United Nations.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He locked up thousands including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigations as well as journalists who reported on them.
Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following the coup attempt in July 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity. A total of 319,587 people were detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the abortive putsch.
In a video address to the General Assembly Erdoğan said his government expected the same level of cooperation that they have enjoyed in criminal cases from the INTERPOL Secretariat and member states in terrorism-related cases, too.
According to a report by the Stockholm Center for Freedom, the Turkish government under President Erdoğan has used the International Notice System, such as Red Notices and diffusions, to target political opponents who have done nothing more than criticize the government.
Similarly, it has also abused INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents Database by filing tens of thousands of notifications for critics and opponents who, in many instances, were not even aware that their passports had been invalidated.
In the interview Sevgel said that despite the failure to enact INTERPOL Red Notices, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) in cooperation with the Turkish National Police was able to bring 123 members of the Gülen movement to Turkey.
Since the coup attempt the Erdoğan government has employed extralegal methods to secure the return of its critics after its official extradition requests have been denied. The government’s campaign has mostly relied on renditions, in which the government and MİT persuade the relevant states to hand over individuals without due process, using various methods. The victims have faced a number of human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, house raids, torture and ill-treatment during these operations. A detailed account of Erdoğan government’s transnational repression can be found in SCF’s latest report, “Turkey’s Transnational Repression: Abduction, Rendition and Forcible Return of Erdoğan Critics.”
In several of these cases the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) concluded that the arrest, detention and forced transfer to Turkey of Turkish nationals were arbitrary and in violation of international human rights norms and standards.