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Visa denial to Chinese puts MEA in red corner

Even as India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) denied visas to two prospective participants in an anti-Beijing conference in Dharmasala, legal experts have questioned the idea that Interpol Red Notices (RNs) serve as undeniable warrants of arrests in countries that cooperate with the international criminal police organisation.

The denial of visas to Chinese activists Ray Wong and Lu Jinghua on Thursday came less than a week after an E-visa issued to Dolkun Isa, an exiled Uyghur wanted by China and having an RN against him, was cancelled post-issuance.

However senior New York-based lawyer Ravi Batra told The Hindu that while an RN was the closest thing to an international arrest warrant the fact that the U.S. permitted Dolkun Isa, also the head of World Uighur Congress, to visit and freely move in the U.S. during the recent Nuclear Security Summit time period spoke volumes about the mandatory-arrest nature of the RN.

RNs are the highest level of alert and are based on a national arrest warrant. The stated function of the RN is to “seek the location of a wanted person and his/her detention, arrest or restriction of movement for the purpose of extradition, surrender or similar lawful action.”

“Sovereign nations have both the right and obligation to conduct their affairs of state as best suits them, and honour their own national priorities, which they, not Interpol, set. Of course, the fundamental core obligation of every nation is to protect public safety,” Mr. Batra said.

Indeed, in remarks made to The Hindu, Mr. Isa cited a study by the non-partisan Centre for Public Integrity (CPI) which noted that a five-month probe by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists showed a “little-known side to Interpol’s work: That in cases from countries such as Iran, Russia, Venezuela and Tunisia, Interpol Red Notices were not only being used for legitimate law enforcement purposes, but to round up political opponents of notorious regimes. According to the CPI study, more than 2,200 of the published RNs were from countries listed as providing no political rights or civil liberties by the independent NGO Freedom House, and among the top 30 countries requesting public RNs were Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates, China, Rwanda, Vietnam, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq and Iran.

In 2013, UK-based NGO Fair Trials International said that the credibility of RNs was being undermined as they were being misused by some of the 190 participating states to pursue exiled political opponents, and this was a problem particularly because under Article 3 of Interpol's constitution the agency was strictly forbidden from undertaking any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.

Mr. Isa, who confirmed that the RN against him at Beijing’s request was issued in 1997 and yet travelled to the U.S. many times since 2012, most recently in March this year, had strong words for how Beijing’s had sought to characterise him. He said China labelled him a terrorist “primarily as a means to delegitimise the human rights work that I do to support the Uyghur community… China tries to get the rest of the international community to see all Uyghurs as violent – a claim that clearly does not hold up to scrutiny if information is available.”

Oddly, a search by any criterion for Mr. Isa on Interpol’s RN web page does not pull up his record; however what he says about China’s case against him is true and Washington has also chose on multiple occasions to disregard the RN against Mr. Isa, it leaves a rather troubling question unanswered by India: Why did it choose to toe China’s line and revoke his E-visa when the American example makes the case for countries to ignore RN if the person was not known to be involved in violent crime or terrorism? Also if it is now New Delhi’s policy to appease China so meticulously then why permit such an anti-Beijing conference to take place on Indian soil at all, and allow all manner of activists challenging a nation’s hegemonic tendencies to participate?

If the MEA has answers to these questions, as well it might, then it should not come as a surprise if more such cases of visa denial based on RNs come up in the future, especially given the proposal to merge India’s internal “blacklist” with Interpol’s data.

However whenever India denies an individual a visa based on Interpol-driven criteria, it may leave the MEA open to criticism over the political factors behind the RN in question if any.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 3:52:20 AM |

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