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Turkey continues to abuse Interpol

ENSAR NUR, TR724

Lawyers Ali Yıldız and Ben Keith, members of the Ankara Bar Association and the Brussels Bar Association, shed light on another mechanism of Interpol that Turkey exploits in their articles published in Just Security, hosted by the New York University School of Law.

In their article, lawyers Ali Yıldız and British lawyer Ben Keith explain the abuse of Interpol mechanisms by Turkey and list their demands in an open letter addressed to Interpol.

While expert legal professionals point out that Interpol has taken some steps to prevent Turkey’s abuse of the “red notice” system, they also draw attention to the fact that Turkish authorities continue to use a different Interpol mechanism, the Stolen and Lost Travel Document (SLTD) system, which is subject to less internal scrutiny and control, to arrest dissidents abroad.

Stolen and Lost Travel Document (SLTD): Another weapon of the regime

Turkish authorities abuse the SLTD system by recording the passports of dissidents as lost, stolen, canceled, or invalid, in order to ensure their deportation from Turkey when they travel. Nordic Monitor first brought up this issue.

Since the so-called coup attempt in 2016, the Turkish government has unlawfully canceled tens of thousands of passports, despite the Constitutional Court’s decision that passport cancellations and travel bans can only be enforced through a court order, not by police or government officials.

In this sense, Turkey abuses the SLTD system and violates its own domestic law. According to legal experts, Interpol’s own balance and oversight mechanisms are not functioning properly. Individuals can request access to and deletion of the information held by Interpol regarding themselves. However, once a decision is made by Interpol, there is no appeal process, and in most cases, it takes a long time to receive a response from Interpol.

Often, a person realizes that their passport has been unjustly canceled only when they are questioned and likely detained by border control officers while traveling.

SLTD as a more effective pressure tool than Red Notice

It is emphasized that the abuse of the SLTD system is an even more effective transnational pressure tool than the abuse of the red notice system. Turkey uses Interpol to evade established human rights protections in extradition systems and repeatedly violates Interpol’s rules by disguising its persecution of dissidents as administrative passport cancellations.

The targeted individual is stopped by a country’s border control because it is determined that they are using a stolen passport. Police checks, interviews, and searches are conducted, and they are likely to be detained, ultimately initiating the deportation process against them. The case of Enes Kanter’s ordeal in Europe is cited as an example.

Letter to the Secretary-General of Interpol

The demands in the open letter written by the lawyers themselves and 23 other human rights lawyers and defenders to Interpol Secretary-General Jürgen Stock are also brought up.

The open letter makes two requests. First, to “suspend Turkey’s use of Interpol databases until a final decision is reached by the General Assembly to permanently suspend or restrict Turkey’s access.” Second, to “suspend Turkey’s use of the SLTD database until further scrutiny is conducted.”

In his response to the open letter on June 23, the Secretary-General largely denied the flaws in Interpol’s review mechanisms and chose to ignore the claim that Interpol is responsible for human rights violations through its databases.

However, lawyers refer to reports indicating that the Secretary-General allowed Turkey to block access to individuals’ data without explanation, citing Article 35 of Interpol’s regulations, which allows for information restriction to protect public or national security, prevent crime, maintain the confidentiality of investigations, or protect individuals’ rights and freedoms. However, legal experts argue that Turkey’s justification for data restriction violates individuals’ rights.

According to the lawyers, it is significant that the Secretary-General recently expressed seriousness in preserving the integrity of Interpol’s red notice system. However, more needs to be done to prevent the misuse of other Interpol systems for political purposes.

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