Turkey’s Abuse of INTERPOL: How Erdoğan Weaponized the International Criminal Police Organization for Transnational Repression

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This report focuses on how the Turkish government, under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has abused INTERPOL in a number of ways.

The Erdoğan government 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 (SLTD) 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 several cases some of these people were stranded at international airports or put in detention before they were released or, in the worst cases, were handed over to Turkish operatives and ended up in Turkish prisons.

“The Turkish government must be held responsible for abusing the INTERPOL system to commit human rights violations,” said Dr. Merve R. Kayıkcı, research director at the Stockholm Center for Freedom. “It is encouraging to see that the organization’s General Secretariat took considerable steps to safeguard the rights of innocent people and, in many cases, chose not to look the other way when the Turkish government went after critics without credible evidence.”

The report sheds light on such abusive practices by providing information on how INTERPOL mechanisms work and the way Turkey misused them in various cases. It ends with policy proposals aimed at preventing future abuse of the system by autocratic regimes to target their opponents.

In view of increasing attempts by repressive governments to abuse its mechanisms, INTERPOL needs to develop new ways to ensure that it operates strictly within the confines of its mandate and does not become an accomplice to transnational repression.

“INTERPOL’s constitution explicitly forbids intervention or activities of a political, religious or racial nature and requires cooperation to be ‘in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’,” Dr. Kayıkcı said. “The governments of democratic countries might prevent abuse of INTERPOL mechanisms by verifying that a communication comports with the organization’s constitution before removing an individual from the country or denying visa, asylum or other immigration status and by not relying on INTERPOL notices as the sole basis for taking action.”

About the Stockholm Center for Freedom

SCF is a non-profit advocacy organization that promotes the rule of law, democracy and human rights with a special focus on Turkey.

Committed to serving as a reference source by providing a broad perspective on rights violations in Turkey, SCF monitors daily developments, documents individual cases of the infringement of fundamental rights and publishes comprehensive reports on human rights issues.

SCF is a member of the Alliance Against Genocide, an international coalition working to exert pressure on the UN, regional organizations and national governments to act on early warning signs and take action to prevent genocide.

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