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Belarus accused of using Interpol to harass opponents abroad

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Belarus/Poland – On Sunday, 12 September, Makary Malachowski, a Belarusian opposition figure who had fled to Poland on a humanitarian visa, was arrested by the Polish police in the town of Piaseczno, in the southern part of the Warsaw metropolitan area. He was released shortly afterwards, but this misadventure reminded him that Minsk has a long arm.

Attempted political use of Interpol

Indeed, as Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński explained in a tweet on Monday, the arrest followed an Interpol alert issued by the Belarusian authorities:

Yesterday’s arrest of a Belarusian citizen in Piaseczno is the result of a new attempt  by the Belarusian regime to make political use of the Interpol ’red notice’ […]. Already in July, I addressed the authorities at Interpol headquarters, stressing the need for changes in this regard.

In accordance with Interpol rules,

A Red Notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition. 

Bogus alerts against opponents

However, the Belarusian authorities seem to have begun issuing bogus alerts against certain opponents who have taken refuge abroad. Such a misuse of Interpol services causes those opponents to be arrested by the police in their current country of residence. Indeed, as the Warsaw Police Command explained in a press release, “Regardless of the country of residence of a person wanted by Interpol, in accordance with international obligations, law enforcement and judicial authorities are obliged to carry out actions aimed at, among other things, determining the reason for the search and then take further decisions. In each country, similar actions would be carried out by law enforcement and would look almost the same, since the red notice indicates, among other things, the obligation to detain a person.

The decision about whether or not to initiate extradition proceedings is then taken by the judicial authority.