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When INTERPOL ‘eats with… sinners’

If you like, call me a Pharisee or Scribe, the like of controversial biblical Capernaum heavy weight and respected citizens who, in the gospel of Luke (5:30), are reported to have murmured to the disciples of Jesus about their Master’s (Jesus) readiness to sit at table with people of questionable character and exposure in society. These were the tax collectors and renowned public sinners.

Mine is not a murmur. I am saying it loud and clear: “Why is the INTERPOL accepting the ‘generosity’ of a global offender?” How much remains of this 97-year-old world police by being hosted by a country that has given citizenship to an international terrorism funder?

Could it be that among the INTERPOL top ranking officials some have got half the message of Jesus’ response remarks that he did not come for the righteous, but sinners? And, therefore, the INTERPOL is taking its almost one-week long 89th General Assembly to Istanbul, the commercial and social capital of Turkey, the country that has grown into a hub of a wide range of worrying international crime activity levels? 

For their best known reasons, they seem to forget that in Matthew 7:21,the same Jesus is quoted in the simple English Aramaic bible as saying: “It is not everyone that says to me, “My Lord, my Lord, who enters in the Kingdom of heaven…” Unless otherwise, how does the INTERPOL big guns take the world angels general assembly to the Kingdom of hell? Or, could they have been taken away by the “dawa ya moto ni moto” African indigenous knowledge saying (translated literally): “The medicine of fire is fire?”

Either way one looks at it, the INTERPOL, a-194-member country inter-governmental organization set up to assist national police forces in combating crimes globally, is sending shock waves around the world. Slowly it is sort of getting off the track and losing credibility. And, unfortunately, Turkey stands as a contributor to reckon with to this state of affairs.  

In August, this year, the Stockholm Centre for Freedom (SCF) published a report on how Turkey abuses the INTERPOL protocols, securing the placement of political dissidents living abroad on the ‘Red Notice’ wanted list category. On the heels of this revelation, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), states categorically, that Turkey “has become known as a mafia state and the evidence suggests that this is the case, now more than ever.” On a score scale of one to ten, reflecting the criminality in ascending order, Turkey’s score of 6.89 slots the country in the 12th worst country position in the UN community of 193 members. Comparatively, it is ahead of countries like Syria, Lebanon and Venezuela.                                                                                                       

In the first ever assessment of illicit economies in all 193 UN member states, reveals that “the Turkish government often leverages certain criminal markets, such as the gold and oil trade, human smuggling and arms trafficking, for its own benefit and political purpose.” It says, depending on political circumstances and geopolitical relations with other countries, the Turkish government chooses to “either tighten or ease its control over organized criminal activity.” Director Shaw observes “state officials and clientelist networks who hold influence over state authorities are now the most dominant brokers of organized crime.”

The Crime Index reveals “state-embedded individuals (being) involved in illegally transferring weapons to Salafi-Jihadist groups fighting in Syria and Libya, as well as providing weapons to paramilitary groups in Turkey… Organized crime and state-embedded individuals have extremely strong and complex links, dating back many decades and continuing to today.” The study says illegal arms trade is also pervasive in Turkey, with firearm use and arms trafficking on the rise in recent years as the country plays roles of “a source, transit and destination… to greater or lesser degrees.” When I was patching up this article, news arriving on my home desk hinted on Turkey granting citizenship to a person renowned for supporting terrorists!    

The Index further reveals Turkish organized criminal gangs controlling the wholesale importation of heroin into Europe. Based on an increase in acetic anhydride seizures, a key precursor for processing morphine into heroin, the report suggests that heroin production is on the rise in Turkey, with laboratories scattered across Istanbul and in eastern provinces at the border. The Turkish National Police’s ability to deal with drug trafficking has been negatively impacted by weakened cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency since 2016.

Director Shaw remarks that the results of the study “paint a worrying picture of the reach, scale and impact of organized crime… (because) “nearly 80%  (79.4% to be exact) of the world’s population today live in countries with high levels of criminality. It is equally alarming to consider that the exploitation of people, in the form of human trafficking, has become the most pervasive criminal economy in the world – a development that serves as a dark reminder of the dehumanizing impact of organized crime.” On global criminal markets, The Index reveals human trafficking taking the lead with a score of 5.58, even surpassing Cannabis trade (5.10) arms trafficking (4.92) and human smuggling (4.77). Turkey is a key player in the transnational markets.

The pertinent question about the forthcoming INTERPOL General Assembly is: “Why destination Istanbul?” In the letter and spirit of the organization, Turkey is a ‘public sinner’. The organization seems not even to read its own past of falling victim to authoritarian regimes throughout its life. Nazi Germany once controlled it to the extent of transferring its head offices to Berlin. Today, Russia and China are using it for personal political interests. Now Turkey looks set to take its turn on this supposedly holy mission organization by lobbying for slotting more than 50,000 of its nationals on the Red Notice list.

What is wrong with INTERPOL that it breaks its own rules? Who will investigate the INTERPOL affairs? Is the INTERPOL so ‘broke’ or ill-financed to find itself behaving in the way it is doing? The member countries need to revisit and establish whether their institution (if it is really theirs any longer) still serves its purpose? We have read a lot about President Erdogan’s long arm. What does the world do if INTERPOL becomes part and parcel of his oppressive long arm? Something has got to be done. Has the world trashed the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Maybe INTERPOL has so outlived its life and trust that it feels perfectly comfortable with ‘feasting with global sinners in heaven’.

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.


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