PRESS RELEASE: After 20 Years WUC President Dolkun Isa Has INTERPOL Red Notice Removed
Through the persistent work of Fair Trials, the World Uyghur Congress welcomes the deletion on the INTERPOL Red Notice issued against our President, Dolkun Isa. Such a decision provides vindication for the two decades in which Isa has been falsely accused of criminality by the Chinese government and forced to live under intense scrutiny on account of spurious claims, but also highlights the entrenched politicization of international institutions that are often seen as legitimate, impartial arbiters of justice.
Isa was first issued a Red Notice by INTERPOL on the insistence of the Chinese government in 1997, only getting word himself of the notice two years later in 1999 by German police. Although a serious charge, German authorities came to the conclusion that Isa presented no threat and he became a German citizen in 2006. Despite this, the notice has remained a particular obstacle for Isa, inhibiting international travel and hindering activism.
Isa initially encountered problems entering the US back in 2006 on account of the notice, as well as Turkey, and he has been unable to travel to Taiwan in recent years for his work. In addition, he was briefly detained in South Korea in 2009 and unable to attend the World Forum for Democratization in Asia as a result. Again in 2016, he had his visa rescinded for his expected visit to India in April 2016 to attend the 11th Interethnic Interfaith Leadership Conference in Dharamsala.
Most recently, Isa was scheduled to speak at a conference at the Italian Senate building in Rome, Italy, but was briefly detained by Italian police and taken to a station for an identity check. Though he was released shortly thereafter, Isa was told that his information was run through the INTERPOL database and that the action was requested by Chinese authorities.
Although Interpol stands as a legitimate international organization tasked with facilitating international police cooperation around the world, a number of states have increasingly used the organization as a tool to pursue and silence political dissidents and opponents. Such a serious allegation from any state must be thoroughly scrutinized to determine its legitimacy – something that was regrettably not done here.
Investigations into the use of Interpol’s Red Notice (an alert seeking the arrest of an individual wanted by a particular government) have shown serious issues with its application and the lack of scrutiny in accepting information from states. An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that, “Interpol Red Notices are not only being used for legitimate law enforcement purposes, but to round up political opponents of notorious regimes.”
The UK-based NGO Fair Trials, who played an instrumental role in Dolkun Isa’s case, have also highlighted its abuses. Its Chief Executive, Jago Russell said, “For years Dolkun Isa suffered as a result of China’s attempts to stop him campaigning from exile for the Uyghur people. We are delighted that INTERPOL’s improved complaints mechanism has worked as it should and said “no” to China’s abuse of the Red Notice system.”
Dolkun Isa has said, “I would like to thank Fair Trials for all the tremndous work thay have done in supporting me,” adding, “I must also mention the work done by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International who have both spoken publicly about my case in the past”. Isa also noted the support from a number of democratic countries, Germany in particular, who have properly scrutinized the notice and made it clear that no evidence existed to support China’s claims.
This case clearly illustrates that China’s narrative concerning dissent is a broken one, one that has been used for decades to frame the opposition as violent and unlawful. Dolkun Isa has worked since the 1980s when he was a student activist to shed light on the serious issues that he witnessed in East Turkestan. Because of his activism, he was forced to flee the country and has continued to press for basic respect of international human rights norms.
The Chinese government has consistently relied on the narrative of terrorism to justifying its aggressive policies in East Turkestan. Recent Counter-Terror and Anti-Extremism legislation, roundly criticised by the international community for being excessively broad and vague, has allowed China to label peaceful dissenters as terrorists.
It is in this context which we implore the international community to diligently scrutinize China’s purported narrative in regards to human rights, dissent, activism and even terrorism, and to not so easily accept these pronouncements and accusations as fact.
Finally, Isa condluded by saying, “This represents not only a correction that is past-due after too many years, but also a victory that confirms the importance of rule of law and justice.”
We cautiously applaud the decision from Interpol, thank Fair Trials for their continued work towards justice around the globe and will continue on, less hindered, in our own advocacy for Uyghurs in East Turkestan.