More than two months after the sudden disappearance of Interpol’s Chinese-born President Meng Hongwei, the International police agency elected its acting head Kim Jong Yang of South Korea as its new president after beating out a Russian official whose candidacy had unnerved Western nations due to the fact he is a major general in Russia’s interior ministry forces.
With the backing of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, Kim was picked to replace Meng at a meeting of delegates from the Interpol member nations in Dubai.
Kim will remain in the post until 2020, completing the four-year mandate of his predecessor Meng. The 57-year-old previously served as the chief of police in South Korea’s most populous province and is one of the main proponents of the South Korean government’s push to export its policing strategies around the world. He had been serving as Interpol’s acting president since Meng disappeared in September.
Kim’s selection will undoubtedly soothe some of the concerns that were raised after Alexander Prokopchuk’s name was leaked by British officials as the person most likely to succeed Meng.
Western law enforcement officials were appalled at the prospect of Prokopchuk, a Ukrainian-born Russian national, becoming the next head of the agency, particularly after carving out a reputation for systematically targeting critics and dissidents during his time in charge of the Russian office of Interpol.
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The Kremlin’s history of regularly abusing Interpol’s “red notice” system as means to regularly use the notifications as a way to crack down on Russian and foreign nationals who either oppose or who have run afoul of Vladimir Putin raised alarm bells when Prokopchuk was first mentioned as the probable next president of Interpol.
The agency’s “red notice” alerts serve as official requests to the world’s security services to arrest a particular individual in order to extradite them to the country where they have been brought up on charges.
That Interpol was seriously considering the 56-year-old Prokopchuk as Meng’s successor was met with widespread outrage and was seen as another example of Interpol’s questionable decision-making process regarding the organisation’s leadership.
Meng’s own time in the top job courted significant controversy as he had previously been a close confidant of Chinese President Xi Jinping and a staunch Communist Party loyalist who had also served as China’s vice minister of public security.
Meng’s election during a closed-door vote in 2016 was a major victory for Xi and his foreign policy goal of further integrating loyal Chinese officials into the top jobs of international organisations. His selection was widely panned by the world’s law enforcement agencies who thought the choice of a high-ranking official in Xi’s government was a mockery of international justice, considering the abysmal human rights record of the People’s Republic as well as its highly politicised and arbitrary judicial history.
The international community worried that Putin’s Russia will follow in the footsteps of China and use the position to carry out extrajudicial practices, including indefinite pre-trial detentions and convictions based on politically motivated, trumped-up charges, if Prokopchuk were elected.
Moscow has a long track record that dates back to the Soviet-era of being guilty of both, a point that Russian dissidents and human rights activists have long campaigned against as part of their efforts to shed light on the Kremlin’s interpretation of justice.