On 28 February 2022, the Home Secretary made an oral statement to Parliament, informing the house that the Ukrainian Government requested that Russia be suspended from INTERPOL.
The request, which follows Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is part of wider efforts to isolate Russia from the global community, including severe economic sanctions imposed by Western governments and the EU.
Russia has been a member of INTERPOL since 1990 and has long been the subject of criticism for abusing INTERPOL’s processes, in particular the Red Notice system, to pursue political opponents, facilitate ‘prosecutions to order’ for commercial advantage and even thwart the extradition of Russian citizens to other jurisdictions (covered by P&P here). In 2021, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee published a report, ‘In the room: the UK’s role on multilateral diplomacy’ and highlighted a range of issues with the abuse of INTERPOL, such as obstructionism, rule breaking, and the growing corrosive influence of states such as Russia who regularly used INTERPOL for political purposes.
Ukraine’s opposition to Russian access to INTERPOL is not unprecedented, nor is the possibility of Russia’s suspension. First, in 2018, then Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov indicated that Ukraine was willing to suspend its own membership of INTERPOL if Russian official Alexander Prokopchuk was elected president of the organisation. This did not occur however and, following co-ordinated international pressure, Kim Jong Yang of South Korea was elected and served in the role between 2018-2021. Second, in 2011, INTERPOL’s Executive Committee restricted Syria’s access to INTERPOL’s communications network, following consistent requests by Syrian authorities for the arrest of political dissidents thought to be connected Syria’s ongoing conflict. Finally, in 2016, Turkey was barred from uploading data to INTERPOL after it tried to circulate over 60,000 people as wanted in connection with the alleged coup earlier that year.
As part of her statement, Priti Patel clarified that the UK will lead efforts to support Ukraine’s request for Russian suspension.