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  • Red Notice Monitor

Rwanda Joins List of Regimes Abusing Interpol Systems

For those of us at Red Notice Monitor who track the abuse of Interpol's systems by authoritarian regimes, the recent revelations about Rwanda's actions come as an unfortunate reminder that Red Notice manipulation isn’t just the reserve of the usual suspects. Our regular reporting has often highlighted how powers like Russia, China, Turkey and the UAE have weaponized Red Notices to persecute dissidents abroad. But as a recent in-depth Guardian piece shows, other nations are jumping on board the bandwagon.

The Guardian found that Johnston Busingye, Rwanda's current high commissioner (ambassador) to the UK, played a central role in the misuse of Interpol's global policing mechanisms during his nine years as Rwanda's justice minister and attorney general up until 2022. Under Busingye's tenure, at least three cases saw Rwandan exiles who opposed the regime of President Paul Kagame detained, deported or declared wanted persons based on dubious grounds.

In one example from 2020, Interpol issued a Red Notice on Rwanda's behalf against Eugene Gasana, a former Rwandan ambassador to the US and UN who fell out of favour with Kagame. The purported grounds were allegations of rape and sexual harassment. However, as Gasana pointed out to Interpol, the accusations seemed fabricated to "destroy" his reputation, as the claimed conduct occurred in the US where law enforcement had already investigated and declined to prosecute. Interpol's internal watchdog agreed the Red Notice had a "predominant political dimension" and it was eventually cancelled in 2021.

This mirrors past findings that Rwanda had been "attempting to manipulate...the Interpol red notice system," according to a leaked 2015 FBI report from when Busingye led the justice ministry. Other cases the Guardian highlighted include a Rwandan exile in New Zealand arrested in Germany in 2016 based on a withdrawn Red Notice containing contradictory information, and an opposition member deported from the US in 2016 after a probe that may have involved Rwandan spying.

The fact that a nation like Rwanda is now abusing Interpol's mechanisms intended for lawful international cooperation is alarming. As Bill Browder, the anti-corruption activist himself targeted through misused red notices, stated: "For Rwanda to join [the] group [of regimes abusing Interpol] while the UK government is saying it is a safe country to send asylum seekers is an absurdity."

So while it is positive that Interpol has procedures to identify and cancel politically-motivated notices like the one against Gasana, this latest exposé underscores how vital ongoing vigilance is. The Red Notice system clearly still contains flaws being exploited for transnational repression by human rights-abusing governments around the world. From the traditional perpetrators like Russia to regimes like Rwanda, no situation should be seen as too improbable for concerned monitoring.

Thorough reforms are still needed at Interpol to further insulate the organization from misuse by member states as a tool for cracking down on dissent and political opposition abroad.


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