Membership in Interpol Gives the Palestinian Authority a Tool for Harassing Its Enemies

May 11, 2018 | Ted Bromund
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Last September, over U.S. objections, Interpol granted admission to the Palestinian Authority (PA)—in violation of the Oslo Accords. While the international law-enforcement body does not employ its own agents or officers, it allows member states to issue so-called Red Notices, which are requests for the arrest of specific individuals, and vaguer instruments known as “diffusions.” Ted Bromund examines the many ways the PA can exploit Interpol to harass Israelis and persecute internal enemies:

The PA sought membership [in Interpol] as part of its broader strategy of political and legal warfare against Israel. [Its] admission . . . further debases Interpol, . . . which is required by its constitution to focus exclusively on ordinary crime. It also reflects the fact that the world’s autocracies have learned that Interpol can be a valuable instrument of oppression and that the dominance historically enjoyed by the Western democracies in Interpol is fading. . . .

The most frequently cited risk of Palestinian membership in Interpol is that the PA will use Interpol’s channels to seek Red Notices on serving Israeli officials. When made public, Red Notices also have secondary effects through the international financial system, as well as through visa and passport systems. If Ramallah were to request such Red Notices, if Interpol issued them, and if Interpol member nations acted on them, Israeli officials would find themselves on trial, presumably for [alleged] war crimes or crimes against humanity, in the West Bank. This risk, [however,] though genuine, is not as immediate as it might appear. . . .

Palestinian membership in Interpol . . . poses a greater risk to private citizens who publicly support Israel, both in Israel and anywhere else around the world. The PA would face high barriers if it sought to publish a Red Notice on a serving Israeli official, but it would face much lower barriers if it alleged that a private citizen was part of a criminal conspiracy against [it]. It would still be difficult, verging on impossible, for the Palestinian Authority to extradite a private citizen to the West Bank, but the point of the Red Notice would not be to secure an extradition. It would be to harass Israel’s friends: the process is the punishment. . . .

[But] the most likely targets of abuse . . . are not Israeli officials or even friends of Israel. The most likely targets are in fact Palestinian opponents of the Palestinian Authority. The PA has already made clear its intention to target its political opponents. Immediately after the vote admitting it to Interpol, an aide to Mahmoud Abbas stated that “Mohammed Dahlan, Mohammed Rashid, and Walid Najab, [all rivals of Abbas], are going to be on top of the list” of individuals the PA will pursue through Interpol.

Among other measures, Bromund recommends that Washington withhold a portion of the PA’s funding for every year it remains an Interpol member, adopt a formal policy of refusing to honor any PA requests via Interpol, and remove the legal immunities that protect Interpol from civil and criminal prosecution in the U.S.

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