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The Paradox of Turkey's Interpol Engagement: Upholding Law or Undermining Justice?

Image: Xiaoyi Huang

Turkey's recent apprehension of 56 individuals flagged by Interpol as high-priority suspects casts a glaring spotlight on a profound paradox in international law enforcement. On one hand, there's the undeniable legitimacy and necessity of the Interpol system in combating global crime. On the other, there's Turkey's troubling track record of manipulating this system for political repression, which raises questions about the integrity of its recent actions.


A Double-Edged Sword in International Policing

Interpol's Red Notice system is an essential tool in the global fight against crime. However, when countries like Turkey, known for their misuse of this system, engage in high-profile detentions under its aegis, it presents a complex scenario. While these arrests might be based on legitimate requests from other countries, Turkey's own history of Red Notice abuse casts a shadow of doubt over its intentions and actions.


The SLTD System: Another Avenue for Misuse

Turkey's exploitation of Interpol's mechanisms extends to the Stolen and Lost Travel Document (SLTD) system. This misuse has involved revoking passports of dissidents and critics, effectively using an international tool designed for security as a means of political suppression. This pattern of behaviour undermines the credibility of Turkey's law enforcement actions on the international stage, even when they may be responding to requests from less abusive countries.


Istanbul's 2021 General Assembly: Symbolism and Irony

Hosting the 2021 Interpol General Assembly in Istanbul was a move fraught with irony. It placed Turkey, a country accused of perverting the very systems it was celebrating, at the centre of international law enforcement discourse. This event highlighted the dichotomy between Turkey's role as a participant in global policing and its reputation as a manipulator of that system for its own ends.


The Implications of Turkey's Recent Actions

Turkey's detention of individuals based on Interpol Red Notices from other countries presents a multifaceted dilemma:


  1. Legitimacy vs. Abuse: While some of these detentions may be legitimate, Turkey's history of Red Notice abuse casts a pall over its actions, making it difficult to separate genuine law enforcement from political persecution.

  2. Erosion of Trust in International Mechanisms: Such actions contribute to the erosion of trust in international law enforcement institutions. When a country known for abusing a system also participates in it legitimately, it blurs the lines and raises questions about the integrity of the entire system.

  3. Need for Robust Safeguards: This situation underscores the need for stronger safeguards within Interpol to prevent misuse by member countries. It's crucial to ensure that the system is not exploited for political repression under the guise of international cooperation.

  4. International Responsibility: The international community must scrutinize such actions and hold countries accountable for misusing international law enforcement mechanisms. This includes re-evaluating the roles and responsibilities of member states within these systems.


The paradox of Turkey's recent detentions under Interpol's Red Notice system is emblematic of a larger issue in international law enforcement. While the system itself is vital for global security, its exploitation by member states for political ends undermines its legitimacy and effectiveness. It's a stark reminder of the need for vigilance, accountability, and reform to ensure that these mechanisms serve justice, not political agendas.


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