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.

Just Posted

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

CVRD to increase enforcement after audits reveal that curb-side recycling contamination in the district is well above acceptable limits. (File photo)
CVRD reports contamination in recyclables well above acceptable levels

Increased enforcement planned starting this summer

A conceptual rendering of the commercial plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road. (Town of Ladysmith/June 15 Council Agenda)
Rocky Creek commercial plaza passes public hearing

The proposed plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road would bring commercial activity to Ladysmith’s north end

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read