It looked like a done deal. Interpol, the global law enforcement agency, appeared ready to select Russia’s Alexandr Prokopchuk as its next president – despite the fact that he had been accused of overseeing a policy of systematically targeting critics and dissidents during his time in charge of Interpol’s Russian branch.
It is an open secret that for Vladimir Putin, Interpol is just another tool. The Kremlin has been accused of manipulating the agency’s arrest warrants, the so-called ‘Red Notice’, to persecute its enemies, human rights organisation have repeatedly pointed out that Russia has abused Interpol to target human rights defenders and journalists.
The list includes Bill Browder, a British-American financier who says there have been seven attempts by Russian authorities and Prokopchuk to ‘Red Notice’ him, all of them in the end stopped by the agency.
“If there ever was a case for why Russia should not have any authority at Interpol, I am that case,” he wrote in a recent op-ed. Similar attempts have been made against people connected to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of Russian oil giant Yukos and outspoken Putin critic, and supporters of Alexei Navalny, the Russian anti-corruption activist.
The British were particularly opposed to the Russian candidate. Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, commented that this was a “possibility of not just a fox in charge of the hen coop, but actually the assassin in charge of the murder investigation.”
“His election would be an insult to the Salisbury victims and those who have been unjustly targeted by Russia’s red notices,” added another British MP, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, before the vote.
The lobbying by American and European officials against the Russian candidate paid off eventually.
Interpol’s members chose the South Korean Kim Jong Yang with 101 to 61 votes at their annual congress in Dubai this morning. He takes over the mandate of his predecessor Meng Hongwei, who was detained in his native China two months ago over alleged corruption allegations.
For its part, the Kremlin denounced the anti-Prokopchuk campaign: “Of course we are sorry that this was not our candidate,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov after the vote. “The election took place in the atmosphere of unprecedented pressure and interference in these elections,” the Kremlin spokesman said. “The elections were complicated.”
“The Russian candidate has been rejected. This battle is won!” was the gleeful tweet of Ukrainian interior minister, Arsen Avakov, after the decision.
The battle, to put it in his words, might have been won, but the war lost.
Interpol is supposed to be politically neutral – according to its charter, at least – but the anti-Prokopchuk campaign was not the only proxy battle on display. Serbian officials reacted with jubilation after their own lobbying campaign against Kosovo’s application to join Interpol proved successful.
The fact that an agency on global police co-operation – like UNESCO and others – should have become another proxy for international political disputes is hardly surprising, but it is a dangerous game to play with global security.
EUROPE’S WORKING TOGETHER FOR A BRIGHTER TOMORROW
Collaboration across research and healthcare can lead to better outcomes for patients.
EFPIA – Find out more about Europe’s research-based pharmaceutical industry at efpia.eu/manifesto.
Having survived a challenge from hardline anti-Europeans in her own party and only a few days from the extraordinary EU summit, British PM May takes the Brexit battle to Brussels.
France’s Emmanuel Macron, having escaped protests over fuel prices and tumbling approval ratings at home, during a state visit in Belgium pleaded yet again for a ‘two or three speed Europe’ and a treaty change.
Volunteers and employees of two NGOs helping migrants in Croatia face serious threats and violence on an almost daily basis. For the first time in three years, they feel unsafe and unprotected in their city.
With eyes on China, the EU provisionally agreed on rules for a far-reaching system to coordinate scrutiny of foreign investments into Europe, notably from China, to end what a negotiator called “European naivety”.
Globe-trotting UN environment chief Erik Solheim has resigned after a ‘mind-blowing’ US$500,000 travel bill and accusations of ‘CO2 hypocrisy’.
The EU finally provides legal framework for organic and recycled fertilisers, for which there has been no regulatory basis so far. They will also have to contain less heavy metal in the future.
With the electrification of transport, the race to develop a complete battery manufacturing value chain in Europe is now underway.
Views are the author’s