International police organisation Interpol said it had reintegrated Syria back into its information exchange network, lifting restrictions imposed on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in 2012.
“In line with the recommendation from the General Secretariat headquarters, Interpol’s executive committee endorsed that corrective measures applied to Syria be lifted,” an Interpol statement said.
The curbs were introduced against the background of international sanctions against Damascus over abuses by the regime in the early phase of the Syrian war.
The move means that Damascus can directly receive and send messages from other Interpol national offices. These access rights had been suspended since 2012.
The statement emphasised that it was incorrect to state that Syria had been readmitted to Interpol as it has been a member country since first joining in 1953.
The recommendation to lift the “corrective measures” was made following close monitoring of messages from Syria’s national Interpol office, it said.
Individual national Interpol offices still have the power to decide with which other countries to share information, the statement said.
And it added that Syria does not have the power as a member state to issue international “Red Notice” arrest warrants, though it can, like any member state, request the general secretariat of Interpol to do so.
All requests are subject to a thorough compliance review, it added.
Despite such assurances, the move by Interpol to allow Syria access to informational networks has aroused disquiet among some activists.
Human Rights Watch Syria researcher Sara Kayyali described it on Twitter as a “a dangerous development” saying “despite claims to the contrary” there was a history of Red Notices being misused by “repressive governments to make politically motivated arrests”.
The French foreign ministry also declined to endorse the move.
“As long as the Syrian regime continues to fuel instability, the humanitarian crisis and the risk of terrorism, France will remain opposed to the normalisation of relations with Damascus and to any easing of the sanctions regime,” it said in a statement, adding Paris would reaffirm this position at Interpol’s general assembly next month.
The Lyon-based organisation is already under scrutiny from rights activists over the candidacy as its president by top UAE security official Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi, who activists have accused of rights abuses.