Politics

Kremlin critic Bill Browder asks Canada to help kick Russia out of Interpol

One of the Kremlin's most prominent critics is calling on the Canadian government to lead the charge to suspend Russia from the international police organization known as Interpol.

Magnitsky Act backer has been the target of a handful of Interpol red notices

Bill Browder has dedicated much of his life to exposing Russian corruption and avenging the 2009 death of accountant Sergei Magnitsky. (Jared Thomas/CBC)

One of the Kremlin's most prominent critics is calling on the Canadian government to lead the charge to suspend Russia from the international police organization Interpol.

In recent days, Bill Browder — who spearheaded the global Magnitsky Act movement to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of accountant Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009 — has been part of a vocal campaign to stop Russian interior ministry officer Alexander Prokopchuk from becoming Interpol's next president, fearing that country's government would manipulate the job to punish Kremlin critics.

In the end, Interpol's general assembly elected South Korea's Kim Jong-yang as its new leader. He is taking the job after his predecessor, Meng Hongwei of China, was detained and accused of taking bribes by Chinese anti-corruption authorities in September.

Browder, head of the investment fund Hermitage Capital Management, has dedicated much of his life to exposing corruption inside the Kremlin and avenging Magnitsky's death. He successfully pushed Canada to adopt its own version of the Magnitsky Act to target the assets of corrupt officials guilty of gross violations of human rights.

Browder, who renounced his American citizenship and now lives in the U.K., today told the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security via teleconference about his experience as the target of multiple 'red notices' — Interpol requests for nations to locate and arrest someone pending extradition.

He said he believes that if he were ever extradited back to Russia, he'd likely be tortured and killed.

'All it takes is one country'

"We have Russia, on a serial basis, abusing Interpol ... The moral of this story is that if a country wants to abuse Interpol they can just keep abusing Interpol and it doesn't really matter how many times they do it," he told the committee.

In an interview with CBC Radio's The House he went further, calling on Canadian politicians to push for Russia's suspension.

"There's a rule in the Interpol constitution which allows Interpol to suspend countries that abuse the system. It's never been used before, he said.

"And what I'm saying to the Canadian Parliament and the Canadian government is Canada should lead right now on suspending Russia from the Interpol system, in the same way as Russia was suspended from the Olympics after getting caught cheating.

"All it takes is one country to take the lead here."

Browder said hundreds of people around the world, including human rights advocates and lawyers, have been made Interpol targets by Russia, but don't have his resources.

"[Interpol] is meant for law enforcement, not for chasing political enemies. It shouldn't be an arm of a dictatorship," he told host Chris Hall in an interview airing Saturday.

Browder, alongside Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov — another prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin — and Marcus Kolga, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute's Centre for Advancing Canada's Interests Abroad, were all supposed to take questions from committee members. The meeting was cut short when MPs were called back to the House of Commons for a vote on back-to-work legislation.

Politics vs. policing 

Chief Supt. Scott Doran of the RCMP's intelligence and international policing branch told the committee Canada doesn't always follow red notices and treats them more as alerts from abroad.

"From a Canadian perspective, it is not being used as a political tool," said Doran. "From a Canadian perspective I'm confident we are being true to the spirit and the constitution of Interpol in our engagements with other central, national bureaus."

In this photo provided by South Korea National Police Agency, South Korea's Kim Jong Yang speaks during the 87th Interpol General Assembly in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018. Kim was elected as Interpol's president on Wednesday. (South Korea National Police Agency/The Associated Press)

While there is a process to suspend one of Interpol's 194 member countries, Doran said Canada would never take that step lightly.

"I think we need to consider perhaps a difference between the policing community and the political community. Some countries may have issues politically but the reality is we sometimes have an obligation to interact with their police regardless," he said.

Canada did not endorse any candidate before the Interpol presidency vote earlier this week, but Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Canada's representative at the meetings, was "working assiduously" to defend Canada's interests in Interpol.

Earlier this week, RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gilles Michaud was elected to represent the Americas on the executive committee.

With files from Reuters

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