The conflict in Ukraine has had significant consequences in INTERPOL. Ukraine has disconnected from the INTERPOL network due to its fear of Russia’s misuse of INTERPOL’s channels. On March 10, INTERPOL announced that the Russian National Central Bureau (NCB) can no longer send diffusions directly. On March 25, 2022, INTERPOL announced that it deployed an Operational Support Team to Moldova in response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Suspension of Russia’s Right to Send Diffusions Directly
When an INTERPOL NCB wants to send a Red Notice, the NCB sends the request for a Red Notice to the INTERPOL Secretariat. The Secretariat must vet the request to ensure that it meets with the organization’s requirements. Once a Red Notice is approved, it is posted over the INTERPOL network. Such a Red Notice enables INTERPOL members to detain an individual against whom an INTERPOL Red Notice exists. However, INTERPOL points out that a decision by a member country whether to act on a request is exclusively at the discretion of the competent authorities.
A diffusion is less formal. An INTERPOL NCB can directly send diffusions. They are less formal and the Secretariat does not vet them. Nevertheless, many NCBs still detain individuals against whom there is a diffusion.
Since March 10, INTERPOL has required the Russian NCB to send all diffusions to the General Secretariat to be checked for compliance with INTERPOL’s Rules. Only if a diffusion is found compliant will the General Secretariat then disseminate it to member countries. This procedure is in addition to the General Secretariat’s current process of reviewing all Notice requests for compliance.
To prevent any potential misuse of INTERPOL’s channels with respect to the targeting of individuals within or beyond the conflict in Ukraine, the Secretary General with the endorsement of the Executive Committee has increased supervision and monitoring measures in relation to Russia.
INTERPOL has announced that the Secretary General may take additional measures on an urgent basis if the need arises.
INTERPOL Rejects Calls to Suspend or Expel Russia
INTERPOL has issued a statement that Article 2 of its Constitution requires it to maintain police cooperation and ensure communication channels remain open. INTERPOL’s mandate does not include the issuance of sanctions or the imposition of punitive measures. Additionally, no provisions allow for the suspension or exclusion of a member country. As a result, INTERPOL rejects calls as the political level to suspend or exclude Russia from the INTERPOL network.
INTERPOL reiterates that its Constitution strictly forbids it from undertaking any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.
On March 1, Fair Trials observed that Russia has abused INTERPOL Red Notices and Diffusions to intimidate and threaten critics overseas. Fair Trials joined Ukraine and the United Kingdom in calling for INTERPOL to revoke Russia’s membership in INTERPOL.
INTERPOL Deploys Team to Moldova
At the request of Moldova, on March 25, 2022, the INTERPOL General Secretariat deployed an Operational Support Team to Moldova. The mission is furnishing support to law enforcement and humanitarian agencies managing the large outflow of refugees entering the country from Ukraine.
The INTERPOL team will consult and cooperate with Moldova’s General Inspectorate of Police, the General Inspectorate of Border Police, and international organizations, such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund and the International Organization for Migration in areas, such as human trafficking, migration and border management.
The INTERPOL’s mission comes within the framework of its cooperation with EU agencies EUBAM (The European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine), Europol and Frontex.
The INTERPOL team will furnish immediate field support to law enforcement and humanitarian organizations and help evaluate the situation on the ground, identifying needs in order to supply relevant training, analysis and operational support. The INTERPOL team will be based in Chisnau and different refugee camps hosting those who have recently fled Ukraine.
INTERPOL has received reports of human traffickers and smugglers waiting at various border control checkpoints to prey on vulnerable populations arriving from Ukraine. Children and unaccompanied minors are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by smugglers and traffickers.
The INTERPOL mission in Moldova is working with national authorities to identify and prevent organized criminal activity from exploiting the crisis.
INTERPOL’s suspension of the right of Russia to directly disseminate Diffusions and dispatching a team to Moldova are actions taken in the context of the conflict. Similarly, the decision by the Ukraine NCB to disconnect from the INTERPOL network and the call for INTERPOL to expel Russia by Ukraine, the UK, and Fair Trials all reflect concerns and efforts to respond to instances of the misuse of INTERPOL by Russia and fears that the risks of remaining connected to the INTERPOL network outweigh the benefits.
INTERPOL has the challenge of trying to balance the goals of having universal membership, especially as some of its members have cut or diminished international enforcement cooperation, with the need for proper integrity, governance, and adherence to its Constitution to ensure confidence, trust and integrity in its notices and diffusions.