Frontiers of Freedom strongly condemns acts of transnational repression by autocratic regimes who target citizens, investors and business owners in free societies, particularly through the abuse of the Interpol Red Notice process and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLAT).

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) defines transnational repression as the targeting of individuals residing in the United States for harassment and intimidation by foreign governments. This violates U.S. law, and frequently targets business owners who exercise their legal rights under international conventions in defiance of foreign governments who refuse to respect the rule of law.

A 2022 report from Freedom House, a leading human rights organization, highlighted increasingly aggressive cases of transnational repression by autocratic regimes looking to silence their opponents. The report details a stark increase in worldwide cases of transnational repression in 2021, with 85 new cases of “public, direct, physical incidents of transnational repression” reported last year alone. The 42-page indictment warns of an alarming uptick of “brazen” actions by these regimes that seek to exploit international bodies like Interpol to advance their political agenda. The report names a number of countries that “demonstrated a dangerous disregard for international law, democratic norms, and state sovereignty”.

Organizations like Interpol are often abused by authoritarian governments who issue “Red Notices against dissidents and exiles” as part of their intimidation and harassment tactics to pursue opponents beyond their own borders.

These Red Notice requests often are baseless and unlawful. Foreign regimes have repeatedly used Interpol to target investors and businesspersons engaged in contractual disputes against the state, and who have lawfully exercised their right to challenge foreign governments who seek to retaliate against them for their efforts.

Through their abuse of Interpol, autocratic regimes also violate the MLATs they have entered into with the United States. One notable offender, India, was exposed in a July 2022 letter from U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Senator Grassley expressed serious concern about the abuse of MLATs and the Interpol Red Notice process being perpetrated by the Modi regime and emphasized the critical role that the Department of Justice plays in protecting American citizens and businesspersons from unlawful attempts by autocratic regimes to “undermine the rule of law“ and “retaliate against adverse litigants in international disputes.

In a global economy, business owners and foreign investors are entitled to the rights and freedoms granted to them under international law. It is the duty of democratic nations to protect them as well as the international institutions autocratic regimes seek to exploit.

Interpol’s own rules and procedures prohibit the request of Red Notices in cases that involve political motivation or private contractual disputes. However, Interpol is flooded with requests on a regular basis, allowing abusive, illegitimate requests to slip through the cracks.

Countries like Russia, Turkey, and India have for too long gone unchecked in their abuse of MLATs and organizations like Interpol. Frontiers of Freedom is dedicated to exposing these regimes and their attempts to violate the rights and freedoms granted to all persons around the world through their abusive campaigns and unlawful actions. 

The rise in transnational repression and abuse of Interpol present a dangerous challenge to the world’s foremost protectors of democratic freedoms and human rights. The time has come to ensure substantial oversight of the Interpol Red Notice process, prevent abuse of MLATs and encourage further cooperation to combat the dangerous rise in transnational repression we are experiencing. 

Quote from George Landrith, President and CEO of Frontiers of Freedom:

“Every individual from a free society who is victimized by an autocratic regime is part of the broader global human rights struggle, including business owners who exercise their rights under the law.  

The rule of law isn’t some legal mumbo-jumbo or technicality.  It is the foundation of the concept that we are all equal before the law and that we are all entitled to the law’s protection; and that the law must prevent an authoritarian government from using its considerable power and authority to bully law-abiding people into submission. 

Free societies must protect the rights and freedoms of all individuals who are targeted by tyrants.”

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