Syrian opposition activists | Re-joining Interpol gives Damascus new powers to pursue refugees and dissidents living outside the country
For the first time in ten years, a Syrian regime delegation took part in the 89th Interpol General Assembly that was held in Turkey. The Syrian participation in the meeting raised the fears of opposition activists abroad that they could be extradited to Syria somehow.
Commenting on the move, Ibrahim Al-Jebawy, a leading member of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB) told SOHR that “Interpol readmitted Syria to its fold and that Syria is still a member in most of the international organizations topped by the United Nations, however, re-joining the International Criminal Police Organization is different.”
“The global policing body has a special role in extraditing criminals, but not those wanted in their own country without considering their military, political, religious, ethnical or sectarian affiliation,” Al-Jebawy says.
However,opposition activists abroad are worried about the regime’s competency and experience in fabricating lies, distorting facts and linking activists to criminal charges because of their opposition to the regime’s tyranny and authoritarianism and war crimes it committed against the country and people, he explained.
He referred to a case that happened in 2018 after signing the reconciliation deal in southern Syria. Leaders of the Free National Army were detained and faced trials, but were not released till now, which was an obvious breach of what had been agreed upon between the different signatories.
Such incident raises genuine fear because ofthe regime’s ability to tump up criminal accusations against legal and political activists abroad to bring them back to Syria to prosecute them, Al-Jebawy added.
It is worth noting that there is an Arabic organization akin to the Interpol in its function, known as the Arab Criminal Police that is affiliated to the Arab Interior Ministers Council.
“There are concerns of activating the pan-Arab cooperation over extraditions of criminals as an excuse or as a precursory step to readmitting the Syrian regime to the Arab League,” he said.
Al-Jebawy reiterated that most of the countries understand the regime’s games and ploysto pursue and hunt down opponents and activists.
However, the political activist ruled out any possibility of extraditing any opposition figures on criminal charges by the Interpol unless the accusations are proven.
He points out that the security cooperation between Bashar Al-Assad regime, countries and organizations has never been severed at the level of intelligence sharing and to follow up on leads to verify whether the wanted suspects have really committed crimes or the charges or they are mere fabrications by the regime and its allies.
According to Al-Jebawy, the 89th Interpol General Assembly was already scheduled in Turkey, which as a hostwould not prevent or block the participation of the Syrian regime or any other member in the policing body.
He stressed that “from an objective point of view, the participation of the Syrian delegation in the Interpole meeting is normal, but from my subjective and pro-revolution point of view, the regime should not be part of the Interpol or any other international organisation for that matter.”
On the other hand, speaking to SOHR, Brigadier Ahmad Al-Rahal described the latest Interpol General Assembly as “routine meeting”, noting that concerns about extradition of opposition figures are baseless, because the policing body rejects handing over anyone without their consent in accordance with the universal human rights principles.
Al-Rahal added that “Syrian participation does not mean the rehabilitation and acceptance of the regime based on a Turkish-Russian-US deal. There are restrictions on the regime role in the policing body.”
A third activist, Hussein Al-Qady who is member of the NCB, told SOHR “the participation of Syrian delegation in the meeting for the first time after a decade ofthe Syrian war should have been part of political settlement between the opposition and the regime.”
According to Al-Qady, the global policing body should have a priority of reaching political reconciliation because Syria is experiencing war not peace and security.
Al-Qady added that regardless of taking part in the meeting, anybody who committed war crimes should be held accountable no matter theiraffiliations.
The NCB’s member voiced the importance of reaching a political settlement that ensures promoting justice among all the warring parties and ending the tragedy of the oppressed Syrian people.
Soliman Al-Kafiri, another activist said, “amid lack of credibility of all parties, there are fears thatthe regime would pursue dissidents abroad.”
He argued that the international judiciary is not isolated from the world political and economic status quo and its affiliated institutions.
“I am practical rather than pessimistic in light of the ongoing developments in the Arab region in general and Syria in particular. I believe everything is possible and the opposition figures’ fears are justified,” Al-Kafiri added, while urging the opposition “to remain vigilant and unite” to avoid any attempts that might see opposition figures in prison.
Al-Kafiri emphasised, “Syrians should fear what will happen, because they are stuck between influential international powers and the Syrian painful reality.”
Meanwhile, legal activist, Mahdy Ibrahim has told SOHR that the Interpol does not have the right to issue a red notice of detaining any opposition figure unless their namesare linked with murders or war crimes, and has noted that the regime cannot not access the Interpol database that were restricted by other member countries.
“The policing organization could not extradite anyone who fled his/her country over political, military, religious or ethnic activities,” Ibrahim added.
He confirmed the Interpol is not an executive authority to extradite wanted suspects.
By late October, the Syrian regime announced the reopening of the Interpol office in Damascus after its executive committee of the general.