Interpol tries to get out of Russian red notice against Nazi Right Sector Leader
Interpol’s dilemma over Russian ‘red notice’ request for Right Sektor leader
Interpol faces a row with Russia over a request to issue a ‘red notice’ for a Ukrainian opposition leader who helped topple the country’s pro-Moscow government
Colin Freeman By Colin Freeman7:47PM BST 13 Apr 2014
The Kremlin wants to enlist the global policing organisation’s help in arresting Dmitry Yarosh, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist Pravy Sektor movement.
Pravy Sektor played a key role in defending protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square during the revolution earlier this year, but is viewed as an anti-Russian terrorist group by Moscow.
The request for a red notice from Russia’s ministry of Interior puts Interpol in a politically awkward position.
Last year, it was heavily criticised in a report by Fair Trials Abroad for allowing countries to use the red notice system to pursue vendettas against political opponents.
The report said that many such red notice requests had simply been rubber stamped with little proper scrutiny, despite being from countries with dubious human rights records, such as Russia, Belarus and Iran.
In the wake of the report last November, Interpol acknowledged that there was a risk of warrants being used for “political or other inappropriate reasons”, and pledged that its scrutiny procedures were being tightened.
The request for a red alert to be issued on behalf of Mr Yarosh will pose a high-profile test of that new commitment, although Interpol is likely to anger the Kremlin if it turns it down.
Jago Russell, the chief executive of Fair Trials Abroad, urged to Interpol to subject the Yarosh request to thorough scrutiny.
“Interpol is no stranger to countries using its global alerts to legitimise political and diplomatic vendettas but every time it gets caught up in these cases its own reputation is undermined,” he said.
“Despite recognising the importance of political neutrality and respect for human rights, Interpol; is not doing enough to weed out abusive cases and give redress for the people they affect.”
Founded in 1923 to allow different European states to share information on crime, Interpol now covers some 190 countries.
The number of red notices it issues has gone up steeply in the past decade, from 1,277 in 2002 to 8,136 in 2012, raising questions about how closely each request is vetted.
Several contentious red alerts have been issued on behalf of Russia. Among them was that of Petr Silaev, an anti-fascist demonstrator, who left Russia in 2010 after being accused of “hooliganism”.
After Moscow used Interpol’s systems to issue an international arrest alert against him, he was detained in Spain and held for nine days in a high-security prison.
He was then placed under house arrest for six months before the charges against him were found to be false.
Mr Yarosh, 42, is a long-term Ukrainian nationalist campaigner, whose stated aim is for the country to be affiliated neither with Russia nor Europe.
Critics claim his group has Far-Right sympathies and connections to gangsterism, and he himself has admitted that they possess weapons.
He also claims that a war with Russia is probably inevitable because it sees Ukraine as part of the “Moscow Empire”.
However, while many fellow Ukrainians have little sympathy for his militant anti-Russian stance, the Russian claims against his group are widely regarded as exaggerated.
Moscow has repeatedly failed to provide evidence for its claims that “Fascist” elements in Ukraine are attacking Russian speakers there, despite citing this as one of its reasons for annexing Crimea.
Russia filed its request to Interpol in respect of Mr Yarosh in March.
It accuses him of “publicly calling upon anti-Russian forces for extreme actions and terror on the territory of Russia.” Specifically, it alleges that he appealed to a group of Chechen militants to orchestrate terror attacks against Russia, a charge he says is fabricated.
Last month, Valery Rashkin, a Russian State Duma deputy, urged Russian special services to “follow Mossad examples” and assassinate Mr Yarosh.
Asked by The Telegraph last week whether it would consider issuing a red alert for Mr Yarosh, Interpol’s press office declined to comment.
It said it could not do so “except in special circumstances and with approval of the member country concerned,” despite the Russian government having already publicised its request in Mr Yarosh’s case.
Asked separately whether the red alert request for Mr Yarosh would run foul of Interpol’s new pledge to weed out politically-motivated requests, the press office failed to respond.