4 Ways Autocrats Have Used Interpol to Harass Faraway Enemies

Interpol is the world’s largest police organization. It serves as a powerful bulletin board that governments and law enforcement agencies use to team up to pursue fugitives across the globe. At its best, it helps track down killers and terrorists.

But it is also a novel weapon for strongmen and autocrats in the hunt for political enemies, giving them the power to reach across borders and grab their targets — even in democracies.

Here are some of the ways countries can exploit Interpol:

Red Notices

Interpol’s red notice, the closest thing to an international arrest warrant, has long been dogged by controversy. An award-winning Venezuelan journalist was detained in Peru. An Egyptian asylum seeker was stopped in Australia. And William F. Browder, a London-based human rights campaigner, has been repeatedly targeted for arrest by Russia.

In response, Interpol has toughened oversight, making it harder than ever to misuse red notices. But as it focused on policing politically motivated abuse, other vulnerabilities have remained.

Abril Meixueiro discovered a red notice had been issued against her for child abduction after she returned home to Colorado from Mexico with her young daughter. She had just been granted full custody in a divorce from a man she described as violent and controlling.

The red notice, requested by the police in Mexico, allowed the man to pursue Ms. Meixueiro across borders. Interpol did not know about a local police report concluding that she was “experiencing serious violence,” or about a restraining order issued by a judge against her former husband (who denies wrongdoing). It knew only that Mexico wanted her extradited on child-abduction charges.

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