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Strongmen Continue to Abuse Interpol Despite Reforms

Despite Interpol Fixes, Strongmen Find New Methods to Exploit It

For an extensive period, strongmen and autocrats exploited Interpol, the world’s most extensive police organization, as a tool to capture their political enemies across borders, even in democratic countries. Notably, Interpol has made changes, tightening the oversight of its arrest alerts, known as red notices, to make them even harder to manipulate. However, strongmen have evolved along with Interpol’s changes, finding new ways to exploit the organization to pursue dissidents.

It is evident that despite stringent oversight over the issuance of red notices, several countries have turned to Interpol’s databases of lost and stolen passports as a means to harass dissidents or trap them abroad. This abuse of an important antiterrorism tool led to Interpol temporarily blocking Turkey from using it. Additionally, Belarus is under special monitoring after Interpol noticed politically motivated entries in their databases.

Even as the world paid attention to notorious abusers like Russia and China, it became evident that there has been a rise in other alerts. Blue notices, which seek information on individuals, doubled in number over the past decade, according to Interpol data. This represents a significant challenge to Interpol’s resilience at a crucial moment, as the organization prepares to elect its new leader.

It is worth highlighting that some national governments were found to have issued blue notices that violated Interpol’s rules, which raises concern about the misuse of different systems within Interpol. With growing cases involving politically motivated abuse of these lesser-known systems, Interpol’s credibility is at stake, and there is a need for ongoing scrutiny of all notices issued by the organization.

While Interpol reviews every red notice before issuance, the same level of scrutiny is not conducted for blue notices. Interpol only checks after the notices have circulated, revealing that the system remains vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by authoritarian governments seeking to target political adversaries.

Interpol has seen significant improvements in tackling red-notice abuse. However, the impending election of a new secretary-general comes with fears that these reforms could be reversed. The current candidates, both veteran Interpol officials, are committed to upholding and advancing reforms, although the outcome of the election remains uncertain.

The election process, shrouded in secrecy, tends to be influenced by negotiations and diplomatic trade-offs among member nations, which often undermines the transparency and credibility of the organization. It is evident that while Interpol has made critical strides in cleaning up its databases following years of minimal oversight, there are still significant improvements that need to be made to prevent further misuse of its systems.

The case of an abuse victim having to avoid flying due to being flagged by Interpol databases is a testament to the far-reaching implications of the exploitation and misuse of Interpol’s systems. Consequently, it is essential for Interpol to address these systemic vulnerabilities and prioritize the protection of individuals in its databases.

In conclusion, as Interpol prepares to elect its new leader, it is crucial that all member nations deliberate carefully and vote on someone capable of upholding the organization’s integrity and legitimacy. The next leader of Interpol must remain steadfast in advancing reforms to thwart the misuse of the agency’s systems and ensure that it serves as a global entity committed to upholding the rule of law with transparency and impartiality.

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Forest Lawn Drive now free of RV encampment and parking

Nancy Sexton was thrilled when city crews cleared out more than 50 RVs in December that had been parked near her business for months, blocking parking spots and leaving behind trash and waste on Forest Lawn Drive.

Then she realized the long stretch of road near Barham Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills was suddenly off limits for not just parked RVs, but all parked vehicles. Much of the curb was painted red. No parking signs lined the sidewalk.

“It’s a dumb decision,” said Sexton, who owns the Muse Rooms, which offers leased office spaces. “It’s frustrating.”

The more than 50 RVs, which had been stationed along the winding road for months as a semi-permanent living encampment, were removed in December as part of the city’s operation known as Inside Safe. One goal of the program, which is part of Mayor Karen Bass’ initiative to bring people living on the streets indoors, is to end the cycle of homeless encampments being cleared by the city only to return a few weeks later.

But days after the RVs were removed, Sexton said, the curb was painted red and parking was limited. The new red zone is about a quarter mile long, running between Warner Bros. Studios’ Gate 9 entrance and North Coyote Canyon Drive.

The areas that do allow parking, meanwhile, have two-hour limits.

City officials also said the decision to restrict parking was done out of fire safety concerns, not to keep the RVs from resettling along the road. Sexton has her doubts.

The lack of parking along the street suddenly imposed a new, unexpected expense on her clients, prompting some to look elsewhere. The red curb has also become an irritation for some students and workers at the New York Film Academy and businesses nearby.

A road with RVs lining its right side.

RVs are parked on Forest Lawn Drive on June 27, 2023, in Burbank.

(David McNew/Getty Images)

Since the no-parking signs went up, Sexton said, she’s lost two regular members and two potential clients. All of them had aired concern about the lack of street parking and the added expense of paying $12 a day at the parking structure on site.

The parking fee, Sexton said, doubled the monthly costs for some members.

“I didn’t know how much of a problem it was going to be until there were people saying, ‘I can’t pay $12 a day,’ ” she said. “I’m really feeling it now.”

The situation highlights some of the unintended results as city officials look to address homelessness and the concerns of businesses and homeowners affected by makeshift encampments, whether they involve tents, vehicles, or both.

RV encampments have sprung up across the city amid a housing crisis that has left many people priced out of permanent homes. Local officials have looked for ways to address the issue, including new regulations that have targeted overnight RV parking.

According to the mayor’s office, the Inside Safe program has addressed 39 encampments so far, moving more than 2,400 people into interim housing and an additional 440 into permanent housing since December 2022.

Bass spokesperson Zach Seidl said the RVs that were removed from Forest Lawn Drive were themselves causing parking issues in the area, as well as raising other significant safety and public health concerns.

Members of the surrounding community have said removing the RVs “has helped on all three fronts,” Seidl said in a statement. “This operation has saved lives.

Stella Stahl, spokesperson for Councilmember Nithya Raman, said the city has helped many of the RV residents along Forest Lawn Drive to find housing indoors.

In a statement, Stahl credited the decision to limit parking to a request by the Los Angeles Fire Department, which called the area a “high fire severity zone.” A 2019 brush fire in the area burned more than 30 acres and threatened homes and businesses.

In a Sept. 19, 2023, letter, LAFD Assistant Chief Dean Zipperman asked the city Department of Transportation to install “Tow Away No Stopping Any Time” restrictions on the road due to the stopped and parked vehicles there.

To avoid the hassle of looking for parking, cinematography students Sanchin Vinay, Yifan Xiang, and Davide Picci carpool to their classes at the New York Film Academy, which shares a building with the Muse Rooms. Eliminating the RVs has opened some spots to them, although Picci said they’d been able to find spaces on the street before — “really far down.”

A couch on a sidewalk near an RV.

The curb along Forest Lawn Drive, where someone has left a couch.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Sometimes they pay the $12 for the daily parking to avoid being late for class. Carpooling helps cushion the cost.

Leslie Bates, a film production instructor, said she heard of students and faculty members having “volatile” interactions with the RV residents.

Now that the RVs have

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