- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Jan. 14 article in The Washington Times misrepresents the facts regarding Interpol’s involvement in assisting Argentinian authorities with their investigation into the 1994 bombing of the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association building in Buenos Aires. The article incorrectly claims that “Interpol has failed in assisting Argentina in locating and capturing the terrorists who bombed [the AMIA].” The article also inaccurately claims that Interpol is not following its own rules in resolving the related dispute between the Interpol National Central Bureaus of Argentina and Iran regarding Argentina’s request for “Red Notices,” which are international wanted-persons notices.

Because law enforcement organizations do not discuss the specifics of ongoing criminal investigations, I can only say that Interpol aggressively assists its member countries with terrorism investigations, and that Interpol has been recognized around the world for its increased efforts and significant results in fighting terrorism and other serious international crime over the last several years.

Since 2000, the number of Red Notices issued by Interpol has nearly tripled — from 1,077 to 3,042. The number of “Diffusions,” similar to a call to “be on the lookout” in the United States — issued through Interpol has more than doubled, from 5,333 to 12,212. The number of annual arrests of individuals who were subject to Interpol Red Notices or Diffusions has surged from 534 to 4,259 — a 698 percent increase. In total, more than 18,000 international criminals who were subject to Interpol Red Notices or Diffusions have been arrested since 2000. These numbers demonstrate that Interpol provides its member countries invaluable assistance in tracking down criminals and investigating cases internationally.

Not only is the article’s claim erroneous as it relates to Interpol’s assistance in the bombing investigation, but the article is also wrong in asserting that Interpol is not following its rules in attempting to resolve the related Red Notice dispute between the bureaus of Argentina and Iran.

Argentina’s bureau has asked Interpol to issue Red Notices against Iran’s former president and seven other Iranians in connection with the bombing. Iran’s bureau challenged this request as being “politically motivated” and based on “unfounded and undocumented charges.” Iran’s bureau asserts that granting Argentina’s request would therefore violate Interpol’s constitution and rules. This challenge created a dispute between the bureaus of two Interpol member countries as to the proper use of Interpol’s communications network and databases.

Article 24 of Interpol’s Rules on the Processing of Information for the Purposes of International Police Cooperation specifies that such disputes between two member countries’ bureaus “should be (re)solved by concerted consultation,” and failing that, they “may be submitted to the Executive Committee and, if necessary, to the General Assembly.” This is precisely the process that Interpol has instituted, and in which both parties have agreed to participate.

Unlike what The Times article implies, both Argentina’s and Iran’s bureaus have indicated that they are very satisfied with Interpol’s dispute resolution process. In fact, Argentina sent a message to Interpol on Jan. 16, stating that “we wish to express our thankfulness to the General Secretariat for its good disposition regarding the meeting to be held next January 22, and, in turn, to inform the General Secretariat of the importance of this matter in our country, which has become obvious precisely after the appointment of the highest level officials in charge of the AMIA case to attend the meeting.”

Recognizing that your article was based on a press release issued by two members of Congress who were questioning whether Interpol was following its rules in handling this case, let me say that the process being followed by Interpol is not only consistent with our rules, but it is also one that Congress and others should embrace, not condemn. This process assures U.S. citizens, and indeed every nation’s citizens, that no country could use Interpol to seek the arrest of another country’s president, secretary of defense, secretary of state, cabinet minister, soldier, contract worker, aid worker, employee of a private company or anyone else without the subject citizen’s government being given the opportunity to be heard.

It was recently reported that a Spanish prosecutor had issued arrest warrants for three U.S. soldiers for the alleged murder of a cameraman during the hostilities in Iraq in 2003. If this case were to come to Interpol, wouldn’t the United States want to make sure that Interpol carefully reviewed the matter before issuing such Red Notices? Of course it would.

Interpol will continue to make every effort to assist member countries requesting the issuance of international wanted person’s notices — but only after ensuring that Interpol’s constitution and rules are followed. This is what every government should want before its citizens could be accused of serious crimes internationally via Interpol. Such procedural safeguards protect citizens of all countries, and reinforce respect for the rule of law.

Ronald K. Noble is secretary-general of Interpol.

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