INTERPOL in Monaco a century later – Freedom and security must find a way to coexist

INTERPOL 83rd General Assembly – November 3-7, 2014

The Principality of Monaco was on security alert this past week as it welcomed the members of INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization). It was exactly 100 years after the first meeting in Monaco under the initiative of Prince Albert I, that gathered legal experts and political officials from different countries to discuss police collaboration. This time around it was the turn to HSH Prince Albert II to open the 83rd General Assembly of INTERPOL on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, at the Grimaldi Forum, in the presence of HE Michel Roger, Minister of State, Paul Masseron, Minister of Interior and the President of Interpol Mireille Ballestrazzi.

More than 166 countries with 1,200 delegates representing Justice, Home Affairs and Security Ministers gathered to examine the evolution of international police cooperation and chart the course for facing the crime threats of the present and the future.Their motto this year was Fighting Back Crime. In my opinion, INTERPOL’S main challenge is to ensure the respect of freedom and civil liberties, while combating atrocities and providing the necessary security.

About INTERPOL

The first International Criminal Police Congress was held in Monaco in November 1914 where representatives from 24 countries meet to discuss arrest procedures, identification techniques, centralized international criminal records and extradition proceedings.

It was in 1923 in Vienna that the organization was successfully established as the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC), and in 1956 it adopted its telegraphic address “INTERPOL” as its common name. Founding members included police officials from Russia, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Poland, China, Egypt, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and Yugoslavia. The United States joined in 1938 and Monaco officially adhered in 1950.

Today INTERPOL is the world’s largest international police organization, with an annual budget of around € 70 million, most of which is provided through annual contributions by its membership of 190 countries. Their role is to enable police around the world to work together to make the world a safer place. They claim their high-tech infrastructure of technical and operational support helps meet the growing challenges of fighting crime in the 21st century. INTERPOL believes that in today’s world where global threats range from geopolitical conflicts to health risks, terrorism and cybercrime, collaboration among nations is paramount to prevail. Their vision is: “Connecting police for a safer world”, and their mission: “Preventing and fighting crime through enhanced cooperation and innovation on police and security matters.”

The organization’s headquarters is located in Lyon, France, and operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It also has seven regional offices across the world and a representative office at the United Nations in New York and at the European Union in Brussels. Each of the member countries maintain a National Central Bureau staffed with their own highly trained law enforcement officials. Mireille Ballestrazzi, a French law enforcement officer is currently the first female President of INTERPOL, elected in November 2012 for a 4-year term. Her past positions include: Vice-President for Europe at the INTERPOL Executive Committee, and Deputy Central Director of the Judicial Police in Paris. She has been awarded the Legion d’Honneur and is a graduate of the French National Higher Police Academy. She was preceded by Khoo Boon Hui (born in Singapore) from 2008-20012.

Interpol is not a supranational law-enforcement agency, and it has no agents who would make arrests. Instead, it is an international organization that functions as a network of criminal law-enforcement agencies from different countries. The organization thus functions as an administrative liaison among the law-enforcement agencies of the member countries, providing communications and database assistance, assisted via their central headquarters in Lyon, France.

Election of new General Secretary & passing the torch to Rwanda 

Closing of Interpol General Assembly

The General Assembly closing ceremony took place on Friday, November 7 where Mr. Paul Masseron congratulated the organization on the advances made to confront actual challenges. This Assembly was also marked by the election of the new General Secretary of Interpol, M. Jurgen Stock (55), who has been Vice-President of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police (BKA) since 2004, succeeds Mr. Ronald K. Noble in overseeing police cooperation. At the end of the ceremony M. Regis Asso, Director of the Public Security offered the Interpol Flag to M. Emmanuel Gasana, chief of the Rwanda Delegation as this country will be the site of the 84th General Assembly in 2015.

Meeting Ronald K. Noble General Secretary of INTERPOL – His last press interview

Delegates gave an ovation to Interpol’s outgoing General Secretary Ronald K. Noble, during his last presentation at the General Assembly as he was leaving his post after 14 years of mandate. Furthermore, on Thursday, November 6, the members of the Monaco Press Club organized what would be his last press interview at  Novotel. Noble (born 1956 at Fort Dix, New Jersey) is an American former United States Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement, who became General Secretary of Interpol in 2000 during the 69th INTERPOL General Assembly in Rhodes, Greece and was re-elected consecutively to a second and third five-year term. He is a graduate of Stanford Law School and a tenured professor at the New York University School of Law. He was on leave of absence while serving for INTERPOL, and at the interview he told us he would return to Stanford effective immediately as he has a passion for teaching.

It was less than a year after his confirmation as General Secretary that terrorists attacked on US soil, drawing the world’s attention on the importance of the anti-terrorism fight. It was at that time that INTERPOL went operational committing themselves to work without rest supporting police services. Under his tenure as General Secretary, INTERPOL developed the world’s first global database of stolen or lost travel documents from more than 120 countries and the first global police communications system.

Noble responded to specific question on how INTERPOL tackles terrorism operationally, and explained how their database has increased exponentially through the years thanks to information sharing among member countries, rendering their task much more effective. He was very candid in responding to questions on how to make sure that civil liberties and freedom of expression are respected in counterterrorism operations. He explained that they are redoubling their efforts to avoid member nations to misuse INTERPOL to neutralize dissidents through the issue of Red Notices.

Notice-red_mediumINTERPOL issues Notices that are international requests for cooperation or alerts allowing police in member countries to share critical crime-related information. In the case of Red Notices, the persons concerned are wanted by national jurisdictions for prosecution or to serve a sentence based on an arrest warrant or court decision. INTERPOL’s role is to assist the national police forces in identifying and locating these persons with a view to their arrest and extradition or similar lawful action.

One of the current criticisms about the organization is focused on Nations aligned with Interpol using the group, not just for chasing murderers and sex offenders, but also as a tool against political opponents and refugees. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists founded in 1997 by the Center of Public Integrity, who conducted a probe over five months of how Interpol works, exposed these findings. A complex profile of the international police organization emerged after dozens of interviews and reviews of Interpol documents and public records in several countries.

Attorney Michelle Estlund in her blog Red Notice Law Journal provides information, support and a forum for conversations between people whose lives are affected by Red Notices generated by Interpol. Estlund agrees on the premise that abusive INTERPOL member countries should continue to be criticized and held accountable for their INTERPOL-related activities. She goes even further to estate that all “malfeasance,” whether relatively slight or more severe, should properly be subject to being publicly denounced. She added: “To reserve criticism to only the worst offenders, I believe, allows for a kind of relativism that runs contrary to the absolute rules set forth in INTERPOL’s governing rules and texts.”

INTERPOL would benefit highly from being open to constructive criticism, and use it as a motivation to improve their performance and fulfill their mission.

Final thoughts from some great men

“If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom — go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands that feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!” Samuel Adams, Speech, State House of Pennsylvania, August 1, 1776. He was known as the “Father of the American Revolution.”

“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” James Madison (1751-1809, 4th President of the United States. Known as the “Father of the Constitution.”

”Those who sacrifices freedom for security deserve neither.” Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790, was an American inventor, journalist, diplomat and statesman.

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