An Irishman’s nightmare began when he was arrested in Spain after Qatar had issued an Interpol Red Notice against him. When he met Interpol & Extradition Expert Radha Stirling this year, he had no idea what the Interpol notice could possibly be regarding.
It turned out, he had been accused of committing a fraud in the capacity of “Director” of a Company in Qatar, for which he never was a Director and nor ever had access to commit any such crimes. The allegations had appeared to have been completely fabricated and aimed to disguise another person’s wrongdoing; something which Stirling notes has become common practice in the country.
Qatar has no extradition treaty with Spain, but a treaty is not necessary to process direct country to country requests.
Stirling and the Spanish legal team successfully quashed Qatar’s request and the client was free to return to Ireland. However, Qatar made a second attempt to circumvent usual protocols and reopen the case. They had failed via the use of Interpol, and so sought to reopen the case via the Ministry of Justice, utilising a loophole in procedure. The case returned to the High Court but has now been dismissed for a second time. Stirling argued that Spain no longer had jurisdiction over the matter, given that Spain previously ruled the client free to leave.
Stirling recounts “Last year, our client Steven Williams was arrested in Mallorca over a Qatar bank debt that he had already been negotiating. Qatar used the warrant as an extortion tool, offering to drop the red notice if Steven could increase his repayment offer.
“We even saw a British man pulled from his car in England by three local police vehicles over a Qatar bank debt. He was not detained, and his Interpol notice is in the process of being removed, but for Qatar to misuse enforcement resources over credit card debts is absurd.
“Right now, we have another British client detained and facing extradition proceedings in Prague over a QNB bank debt. The bank has said they will drop the Interpol notice if he furnishes them with a fresh blank cheque. Qatar banks are clearly misusing Interpol’s databases and seemingly, with the full support of the international law enforcement agency itself.
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We have seen Interpol abused by Egypt, Turkey, Russia and China for political reasons, but the gulf region leads in abusing Interpol for financial gain. Qatar recently donated millions to Interpol, and seems to want a return on their investment.
The UAE has come under intense criticism from Detained in Dubai for Interpol abuse over the past decade, but Qatar has followed suit with increased vigour. Qatar more diligently pursues extradition requests and uses malicious tactics to deliberately delay proceedings and keep victims in jail longer, primarily as a pressure tactic to extort funds.”
Stirling has been the leading voice against gulf region Interpol abuse for the past decade, having dealt with hundreds of cases and as an Expert Witness in extradition cases. “There is growing concern over Interpol’s power without accountability. Interpol has almost relied on sovereign immunity, meaning they have not been legally liable for damages they cause to individuals, which can indeed be grave. Without accountability, Interpol’s failure to abide by their own protocols poses a serious risk to individual human rights.” said Stirling.
Stirling has been working with colleagues in Washington DC to make Interpol legally accountable in the US and to suggest reforms that would make the data sharing platform less open to abuse by member countries.
Stirling advises expats and visitors to gulf nations who believe they may be at risk of an Interpol Red Notice, to contact her, “Interpol notices are generally not published on Interpol’s website and often the first time someone discovers they are listed, is when they are crossing a border. Expats with bank debt are urged to contact us as there are steps we can take to prevent Interpol notices being issued in the first place. The same applies to those who have been involved in businesses and partnerships where there has been a dispute. When dealing with a gulf nation, it is important to deal with any potential problems head on before inevitable escalation, and the sooner the better”.
Qatar’s relationship with Interpol has evolved since FIFA announced that Qatar would be the next world cup venue. A 10 year policing and security project for sporting events was launched by INTERPOL in 2012 and funded by Qatar. Interpol has previously been investigated for corruption for receiving funds from the private sector, but now they are criticised for allowing abuses from the highest state bidders.
As Qatar comes under increased scrutiny, flaws in the judicial system, legal abuse and Interpol abuse will be further exposed as well as the risks of working or investing in the country. A British national, Jonathan Nash, and Australian Joseph Sarlak remain in prison under horrendous conditions. Stirling expects to see an increase in media attention on the gulf state, and engagement with the United Nations on individual human rights abuses and wrongful detentions.
Radha Stirling, is founder and CEO of UK / USA based legal and human rights organisation Detained in Dubai, Expert Witness and respected analyst of Middle East Policy.
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