Interpol urged to act against Turkey’s abuse of the SLTD database

The Arrested Lawyers Initiative (TALI) and Human Rights Defenders e.V. (HRD) have coordinated an advocacy action in which prominent members of the European Parliament, the UK House of Lords, Interpol and human rights lawyers, activists and academics have called on Interpol to take a more robust approach to protect human rights by addressing the misuse of Interpol databases by Turkish authorities.

UK-based lawyer Ben Keith, acting on behalf of TALI and HRD, assisted in drafting the letter and accompanying report on the issue. The open letter was sent to the Secretary General of Interpol on 5 June 2023, and can be read in full here.

With the letter and report which have been sent to the Secretary General of Interpol, the signatories asked the Interpol to:

  • suspend Turkey from using INTERPOL databases until the General Assembly can make a final decision as per article 130 of the Rule of Processing of Data,
  • suspend Turkey from the use of the SLTD database until further checks can be put in place.

UK barrister Ben Keith, who specialises in human rights and Interpol and who led the advocacy action said:


“Turkey uses INTERPOL to evade the human rights protections built into extradition systems. Turkey repeatedly breaches INTERPOL’s rules by disguising its persecution of dissidents as administrative passport cancellation. Since the introduction of screening procedures for politically motivated Red Notices, Turkey has found another loophole in INTERPOL’s databases to continue its unchecked transnational repression. INTERPOL cannot continue to allow its systems to be abused to pursue political offences.”

ali yildizBrussels based human rights lawyer and the founder of TALI, Ali Yildiz said, “Although the misuse of the Red Notice mechanism is more on the international community’s agenda, the misuse of the SLTD database often goes unnoticed, yet it is a more effective tool of transnational repression. This issue needs to be addressed immediately. Despite the fact that the Turkish Constitutional Court has ruled on three separate occasions that passport revocations and travel bans can only be imposed with a court or judge’s order, the Ministry of Interior, in total disregard of the TCC, cancelled the passports of more than 59,000 people on 31 July 2022”.

Gunnar Ekeløve-Slydal_Arrested_LawyersGunnar Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Director of the Coalition for International Criminal Justice, said: “INTERPOL’s systems have been criticised for a number of years for the ease with which they can be abused by authoritarian states. It’s time for the organisation to close any remaining loopholes to avoid being complicit in human rights abuses.”

Prominent Washington D.C.-based Interpol lawyer Yuriy L. Nemets, Esq. stressed that the misuse of the SLTD database demands an immediate solution.

“The continued extensive misuse of the SLTD database is further evidence that non-democratic regimes view INTERPOL as a powerful tool of persecution and will not stop abusing the organisation’s resources until they have exhausted them. What is even more alarming is that INTERPOL does not seem to see this as a problem that requires immediate attention.” – Yuriy L. Nemets, Esq

Michelle Estlund, a US-based attorney with extensive experience in INTERPOL cases, emphasised the need for continued vigilance against the misuse of INTERPOL mechanisms.

MichelleEstlund_ArrestedLawyers“Estlund Law supports the efforts of the Arrested Lawyers Initiative in advocating for INTERPOL to hold Turkey accountable for its misuse of INTERPOL databases, particularly the Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database. INTERPOL’s role as a transparent law enforcement support organisation requires its continued vigilance against the misuse of its tools by any member country that violates the rule of law for political gain”. – Michelle Estlund,  US-based attorney

Prominent Italian lawyer Nicola Canestrini underlined the risk that Interpol being an instrument of injustice.

Canestrini_Arrested-Lawyers“Interpol as an instrument of police cooperation needs effective safeguards against abuse by non-democratic governments, or it will become an instrument of injustice, not justice.” – Nicola Canestrini

See also: 45 NGOs call on Interpol General Assembly to implement long overdue reforms

Categories: International Advocacy

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