Human rights activists accused Turkey of using its role as host of Interpol's general assembly to push for a crackdown on critics and political opponents who have fled the country.
The Turkish interior minister Sleyman Soylu said his government would use the three-day event in Istanbul to persuade the international criminal police organisation s officials and delegates to find, arrest and extradite Turkish dissident citizens, particularly those it labels as terrorists abroad.
Campaigners have accused authoritarian regimes of abusing Interpol's red notice system, which used to hunt down criminals at large, including drug smugglers, people traffickers, war crime suspects and terrorists. Turkish authorities have been accused of repeatedly swamping the police organisation with requests to target political opponents.
There are growing concerns about politically motivated abuse of Interpol in the US Senate, where a new bill aimed at ending the organisations misuse to pursue, harass or persecute political opponents and dissidents with trumped up criminal charges was introduced in July.
There has been anger at the appointment of Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi, an Emirati general accused of torture, as the new president of Interpol. Al-Raisi was elected to the position despite the alarm raised by foreign leaders over his candidacy. The UAE has been accused of abusing the red notice system to pursue dissidents.
The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdo told the opening session of the 89th Interpol general assembly on Tuesday that he expected a strong cooperation in the extradition of people suspected of following the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah G len and the PKK, the Kurdish movement.
On Wednesday, Interpol secretary general J rgen Stock told reporters that the organisation wouldn't act on requests motivated by anything other than policing issues.
If a member country decides to use Interpol they have to apply to our rules and standards. If a red notice has a predominantly political background, we don't take any action. If it is political, we respect and protect human rights, Stock said.
Interpol rejected almost 800 red notice requests from Turkey in the past five years, a Interpol spokeswoman told the Guardian.com.au, insisting that each request was rigorously checked. Some exiles of the Turkish Democracy Project claim they have been unjustly threatened with arrest and extradition by the organisation.
Interpol said that we are apolicing organisation not a political one, but we are not blind to issues of geopolitics.
The committee checks applications from countries where we know there might be a problem. We have a taskforce that reviews every red notice request from every member country to make sure it is compliant. We put a lot of effort into making sure the red notice system is respected. In August, the Stockholm Center for Freedom, a non-profit advocacy organisation promoting the rule of law, democracy and human rights, accused the Erdo of using Interpol for its wider campaign of repression against critics, human rights activists and ethnic or religious minorities abroad.
Turkey abuses Interpol in various ways. The International Notice System, such as red notices and diffusions, is used to target political opponents who have committed no crime other than to criticize President Erdo's government.
Turkey is accused of manipulating Interpol's Stolen and Lost Travel Documents Database SLTD by submitting tens of thousands of cases for critics and opponents who, in many instances, are not aware that their passports have been invalidated. Campaigners are concerned about Syria's recent readmission to Interpol after it was banned for human rights abuses and war crimes, fearing the Damascus regime will try to sabotage legitimate asylum claims abroad. Russia, China and Iran have been accused of misusing Interpol's red notices.
Interpol was set up in 1923 to ensure criminals could not flee the country where their crime was committed. The organisation enables law enforcement agencies from its 194 member states to share data on crimes and criminals and issue arrest warrants.
Interpol, once a bastion of law and order, has become a tool of transnational repression, according to Madeleine Joelson, executive director of the Turkish Democracy Project. Erdo an, along with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, continues to abuse and degrade the liberal international order, thereby causing it to lose its true purpose and undermine its credibility.