FILE - In this Nov.8, 2018 file photo, people walk on the Interpol logo of the international police agency in Lyon, central France. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, File)

South Korean named Interpol president in blow to Russia

South Korea’s Kim Jong Yang was elected as Interpol’s president edging out a longtime veteran of Russia’s security services.

South Korea’s Kim Jong Yang was elected as Interpol’s president on Wednesday, edging out a longtime veteran of Russia’s security services who was strongly opposed by the U.S., Britain and other European nations.

Kim’s surprise election was seen as a victory for the White House and its European partners, who had lobbied up until the final hours before the vote against Alexander Prokopchuk’s attempts to be named the next president of the policing organization.

The U.S. and others expressed concern that if Russia’s candidate had been elected, that would have led to further Kremlin abuses of Interpol’s red notice system to go after political opponents and fugitive dissidents.

Russia accused its critics of running a “campaign to discredit” its candidate, calling Prokopchuk a respected professional.

Groups campaigning to clean up Interpol celebrated the win, as did South Korea. South Korea’s police and Foreign Ministry issued a joint statement saying Kim’s election is a “national triumph” that could elevate South Korea’s international standing.

Kim’s win means he secured at least two-thirds of votes cast at Interpol’s general assembly in Dubai on Wednesday. He will serve until 2020, completing the four-year mandate of his predecessor, Meng Hongwei, who was detained in China as part of a wide anti-corruption sweep there.

Kim, a police official in South Korea, was serving as interim president after Meng’s departure from the post and was senior vice-president at Interpol.

Read more: Interpol president reported missing during trip to China

Read more: Canada seizes $1.4M in illicit pharmaceuticals as part of international sting

Russia’s Interior Ministry said after the vote that Prokopchuk, who is one of three vice-presidents at Interpol, will remain in that position. Spokeswoman Irina Volk told the Interfax news agency that Prokopchuk will “focus on advancing the stature of Interpol in the international police community and making its work more effective.”

Most of Interpol’s 194 member-countries attended the organization’s annual assembly this year, which was held in an opulent Dubai hotel along the Persian Gulf coast.

Interpol was facing a pivotal moment in its history as delegates decided whether to hand its presidency to Prokopchuk or Kim, who were the only two candidates vying for the post.

Based in the French city of Lyon, the 95-year-old policing body is best known for issuing “red notices” that identify suspects pursued by other countries, effectively putting them on the world’s “most-wanted” list.

Critics say countries like Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Iran and China have used the system to try to round up political opponents, journalists or activists, even though its rules prohibit the use of police notices for political reasons.

The agency faced criticism two years ago when Interpol’s member-states approved Meng as president for a four-year term. Amnesty International has criticized “China’s longstanding practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad.”

In 2016, Interpol introduced new measures aimed at strengthening the legal framework around the red notice system. As part of the changes, an international team of lawyers and experts first check a notice’s compliance with Interpol rules and regulations before it goes out. Interpol also says it enhanced the work of an appeals body for those targeted with red notices.

Still, member countries can issue requests, known as diffusions, directly to other countries using Interpol’s communication system, without going through the centralized Interpol vetting that’s in place for red notices. Watchdog groups are urging Interpol to reform the diffusion system too.

Bill Browder, who runs an investment fund that had once operated in Moscow, says Russia used the diffusion system against him, which led to his brief arrest in Spain earlier this year.

Browder and another prominent Kremlin critic, oligarch-turned-dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky, warned Tuesday that electing Prokopchuk— who has ties to President Vladimir Putin— would have undermined the international law enforcement agency and politicized police co-operation across borders. Prokopchuk was in charge of facilitating Interpol warrants on behalf of Russia.

Browder and Khodorkovsky — who are reviled by the Kremlin — celebrated the result of the Interpol vote. Browder told The Associated Press on Wednesday that “Common sense has prevailed in a dark world. This is a real humiliation for Putin, who thought he’d get away with it.”

A lawyer who wrote a book on Interpol, Christopher David, hailed Kim’s election as “a solid, uncontroversial choice.” He said in a statement that if Interpol is to be a credible crime-fighting resource, Kim must increase transparency “to demonstrate and maintain its political neutrality.”

A day before the Interpol vote, the White House had come out publicly against the election of Prokopchuk, with National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis saying “the Russian government abuses Interpol’s processes to harass its political opponents.” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was encouraging all nations and organizations that are part of Interpol to choose Kim.

Russia, however, secured a win for its ally Serbia on Tuesday when Kosovo’s bid to join Interpol failed to garner enough votes at the general assembly in Dubai. The move would have boosted Kosovo’s efforts at recognition of its statehood. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

___

Charlton reported from Paris. Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Danica Kirka in London contributed.

Aya Batrawy And Angela Charlton, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The legacy of the Battle of Britain

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 94 marked Battle of Britain Day with a small service Sept. 15

Quesnel golfers make the cut

The Quesnel Golf Club hosted championships for men and women over the past two weeks

North Cariboo Seniors’ Council gathering housing information through surveys

The housing demand and housing supply surveys are available online until Oct. 5.

Quesnel Culture Days takes “careful” approach

The Quesnel Art Walk kicks off Sept. 26

Business battling COVID-19 opens in downtown Quesnel

Shane Wright opened Evolve Gold and Gaming Lounge on Saturday, Sept. 19

Liberals vow wage-subsidy extension to 2021, revamp of EI system in throne speech

Canadian labour market was hammered by pandemic, when lockdowns in the spring led to a loss of 3 million jobs

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

People ‘disgusted’ by COVID-19 election call, B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson speaks to municipal leaders from Victoria

Horgan blasts B.C. Greens for refusing youth overdose detention

Lack of support key to B.C. election call, NDP leader says

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Grand jury indicts police officer in Breonna Taylor death

Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Most Read