The Turkish government uses its diplomatic missions in abusing Interpol mechanisms and harassing exiled critics and political refugees living outside the country.
According to an official document obtained by Nordic Monitor, a request by Turkey demanding the arrest and deportation of Turkish national Vecihi Koyuncu, a prominent businessman living in Finland, was rejected by the Finnish Interpol service. Koyuncu was accused by the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of affiliation with the Gülen movement, a civic group that is highly critical of the Erdoğan government for corruption and the aiding and abetting of armed jihadist groups in Syria.
The official communication, sent by the Justice Ministry’s Directorate General for International Law and Foreign Relations, reveals the role of Turkish diplomatic representatives in the abuse of Interpol mechanisms to advance political persecution, harass critics, run intimidation campaigns and hunt down government opponents.
The document, dated February 7, 2017 and signed by Hatice Seval Arslan, a judge and the head of the unit, confirms that Koyuncu’s passport was cancelled by the Turkish national police despite the fact that freedom of movement can be restricted only by law in line with Article 23 of the Turkish Constitution.
According to Article 23, freedom of movement can be restricted by law for the purpose of investigation and prosecution of an offense and for the prevention of offenses. Moreover, a Turkish citizen’s freedom to leave the country may be restricted only by the decision of a judge based on a criminal investigation or prosecution. It demonstrates the arbitrary rule in Turkey, which is run by a one-man regime without respect for due process.
Interpol’s “diffusion” mechanism, which refers to a notice sent by the Interpol section of the Turkish national police, was used against Koyuncu with a view to securing his deportation based on his lack of an international travel document. But the document showed that the Turkish police triggered Interpol diffusion process without any judicial decision.
Moreover, the document revealed how the request for the deportation of Koyuncu was reiterated by the Turkish Embassy in Helsinki. However, the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the demand via a note verbale and conveyed the decision of the Finnish Interpol service.
Turkish Justice Ministry document confirming that Turkish embassies and consulates have been transformed into regime tools.
As seen in various cases documented by Nordic Monitor, Turkish diplomatic missions violated the domestic laws of receiving states and the principles of international law by conducting unlawful information-gathering campaigns and sweeping intelligence operations. In addition to arbitrary punishment in Turkey, people who were listed by Turkish diplomats were often targeted by a campaign of intimidation and harassment and denied consular services abroad.
It is clear that Turkish diplomats in Finland violated not only Article 23 of the Turkish Constitution but also international human rights principles such as those included in the 4th Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) by taking part in the unlawful operations of the Erdogan regime. The 4th Protocol of the ECHR, which regulates the freedom of movement, has been signed by Turkey but has not yet come into force as its internal approval process has not been completed. However, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled on several occasions regarding the issue within the context that Turkey has violated the right defined by Article 8 of the ECHR.
Furthermore, according to Article 7 of the ECHR, “No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or mission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed.” The Constanta (Romania) Court of Appeals recently decided in line with the relevant articles of the ECHR that the Gülen movement has never committed any act of terrorism and that the extradition of members of the movement to Turkey may result in the prosecution or punishment of a person for reasons of race, religion, political or ideological opinion or membership in a certain social group.
Nordic Monitor previously published a report disclosing how the Interpol process was also misused by the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) to persecute, harass and intimidate critics and opponents living abroad.
Official correspondence sent by the Ministry of Justice to the Adana Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office proves that Turkish authorities consider the Interpol mechanism to be an alternate to the extradition mechanisms regulated by the European Convention on Extradition (ECE), which does not apply to political or military offenses. Instead of employing Interpol mechanisms, Judge Arslan urged the Adana chief public prosecutor to file an extradition request complying with the ECE and domestic law on international judicial cooperation, including information on the structure of the Gülen movement and Koyuncu’s affiliation with it, concrete evidence proving an offense and the articles of the relevant laws applicable to the alleged crime.
Turkey was criticized in several reports by international bodies for abusing Interpol’s law enforcement mechanisms to silence Erdoğan critics from all segments of Turkish society. According to these reports, Turkey had sought Red Notices for 60,000 and/or more individuals immediately after a failed coup attempt in July 2016. On the other hand, a report by the European Parliament, referring to the work of the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), claimed that the Turkish government has reported to the Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (STLD) database, “claiming missing, lost or revoked passports and travel documents for critics and opponents who, in many instances, are not even aware that their passports and travel documents have been invalidated.”
As a result of similar cases, Interpol had to prohibit the use of Interpol’s communications channels to interact on any issue that concerned the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey because it contravened the provisions of Article 3 of Interpol’s constitution. Article 3 “strictly forbids the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.” Additionally, it must deal with ordinary crimes as defined by Article 2 of the constitution.