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Interpol fights for its survival on its 100th anniversary – POLITICO

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LYON, France — A century after its founding, the world’s only crime-fighting organization faces an existential question: Does the world still need it?

Growing geopolitical tensions, including between the United States, Russia and China, are challenging the agency’s operating model, which relies on voluntary information sharing among its members’ police forces.

Add to that the persistent claims that its famous Red Notice alert system is subject to political manipulation and the accusations of complicity in torture against the Emirati president of Interpol, Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi, and the organization for the fight against crime ends up in a perfect storm.

In an interview with POLITICO, Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said the institution faces many challenges, not least because of its financial situation. But he argued that an agency that reaches out globally is needed more than ever in a context of international child sexual abuse, environmental crime and mafia groups like the “Ndrangheta” in Italy.

“The challenges are enormous. I can’t say we have enough resources,” Stock said as the agency celebrates the centenary of its founding in Vienna.

“We are overwhelmed with cases of online child sexual exploitation. We are overwhelmed with cybercrime cases… We are overwhelmed with drug trafficking,” he said. Such international operations are extremely resource-intensive, added the former senior German police official.

His argument is that the global community can only fight these kinds of crimes through cooperation. “That’s why a global platform is more important than ever. Can you imagine if Interpol would not exist? People would say: we need such an agency.

He cited the impending recession and the energy crisis as the main drags on Interpol’s fundraising effort. Asked about the amount requested by Interpol, Stock did not give a figure, but said that tens of millions of euros would be needed to maintain new data and biometric analysis systems which have not been fully funded. .

With 195 member countries in 2022, the agency’s total revenue in 2022 was €195 million, of which €86 million was “voluntary contributions” – money that member countries contribute to support some projects.

One of the complaints with Interpol is that its funding model relies heavily on the goodwill of its members. Companies like Philip Morris and associations like FIFA also used to donate large sums until Stock ended the practice in 2014 – a move he says led to “a difficult few years”. .

Yet Interpol remains indebted to its government donors, including the European Union, its largest contributor, for contributing money to support projects or build the agency’s ability to analyze large datasets, for example.

In March 2017, the agency received 50 million euros from the United Arab Emirates. A few months later, its members elected Emirati Major General Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi as president, who was the subject of complaints lodged in France and Turkey months before his appointment on charges of torture that allegedly took place in 2018. The UAE Foreign Ministry rejected the decision. complaints as “unfounded”.

Asked about the allegations against al-Raisi, Stock said he was “aware of the accusation”, adding that it was an “ongoing matter” and would be “inappropriate and immature”. to comment further. He also defended the UAE’s donation, saying Interpol was “not a wealthy organization” and the UAE did not decide precisely how the money would be spent.

In March 2017, the agency received 50 million euros from the United Arab Emirates | Warren Little/Getty Images for XCAT

In addition, red notices – which signal that a person is wanted by a member country, but do not constitute an arrest warrant – are subject to criticism that they can be manipulated by repressive regimes prosecuting political opponents. . A 2022 European Parliament report said the political use of Red Notices was a persistent “problem”, citing the example of a Ukrainian opera director arrested in Italy following a Red Notice issued by the Russia.

Stock acknowledged that Russia’s war on Ukraine has “impacted police cooperation,” but argued that the red notice system was sound. “We are intensively checking whether the request complies with Interpol procedures,” he said, adding that Interpol is not a “quasi-court”.

While critics say Interpol is crippled by its inability to prosecute state-sponsored criminals and terrorists, Stock argued that it is precisely the agency’s studied neutrality – which does not allow any member to compel another to do anything – which allows him to be effective in this area. it can do it.

Stock’s term as Interpol’s secretary general, essentially its chief executive, ends at the end of 2024. Stephen Kavanagh, Interpol’s executive director for policing and, as of Wednesday, a candidate to succeed Stock, argued that Interpol’s power for 100 years was due to its low profile.

“The reason we are surviving despite the magnitude of the global conflict is that we are not trying to exert power over our members. We cannot order countries to investigate or not to investigate, which allows us to effectively enhance cooperation,” Kavanagh said.