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)

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

Prince Rupert Tourism is benefitting from funding for new welcome and wayfinding signage from the COVID-19 Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. McClymont Park on the gateway into Prince Rupert is one of the first things tourists see entering the city by road. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
$695,000 Community Economic Recovery funds to benefit local organizations

Prince Rupert Tourism and Gitga’at Development Corporation to receive COVID-19 recovery funds

Wainwright Marine Services Ltd.’s “Ingenika” tugboat went missing in the Garner Canal area south and east of Kitimat on Feb. 11, resulting in two deaths and the rescue of a third man. (Wainwright Marine Photo)
Tug union demands Transport Canada protect workers along B.C. coast and rivers

ILWU makes safety demands following the deaths of two men and the rescue of a third

High winds blow wet snow in Prince Rupert on Feb. 24. The region is expecting two to four cm of snow and winds up to 100 km per hour. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
High wind warnings for North Coast, up to 4 cm of snow expected

Wet snow makes driving conditions in Prince Rupert slippery

Pink shirt day was celebrated at Pineridge Elementary School by staff and students in a stand against bullying. Mr. Craig, a work-experience student from Charle Hays Secondary School is seen with students in front of the hearts for kindness board on Feb. 24. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Pineridge students stand against bullying

Prince Rupert students in the pink with kindness

A Prince Rupert neighbourhood on Feb. 23, showing various housing with an apartment building development in the background. Housing advocates in the city say affordable housing is scarce.(Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert Recruitment campaign creates housing availability debate

“There is a serious disconnect here, with the new recruitment campaign,” - Paul Lagace

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Most Read