Fourteen organizations have called on INTERPOL to clarify its involvement in the arrest warrant issued against British journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown.
The charities, including ARTICLE 19, Index on Censorship, and Fair Trials, have written to INTERPOL seeking clarification over whether a Red Notice has been issued for her arrest.
On September 23rd, 2021, the Malaysian Government issued a warrant for her arrest regarding a book she wrote about the 1MDB scandal.
Claire Rewcastle Brown is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Sarawak Report and is known for exposing high-level corruption involving the former Prime Minister of Malaysia. In 2015, the Sarawak Report published an article on the diversion of $700 million into the personal accounts of the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak.
Subsequently, Rewcastle Brown faced charges of ‘activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy’, which formed the basis of a Red Notice request by the Malaysian authorities.
However, in August 2015, Fair Trials wrote to INTERPOL expressing concerns that the Red Notice would likely violate INTERPOL’s rules. At the time, INTERPOL took the unusual step of confirming that although a Red Notice request had been received, it was refused by the General Secretariat.
As of September 23rd, 2021, Rewcastle Brown has been subject to a new arrest warrant in Malaysia.
According to media reports, she is wanted over criminal defamation charges brought by the wife of the Sultan of Terengganu regarding statements about her in Rewcastle Brown’s 2018 book about the 1MDB scandal.
If a Red Notice has been issued, Ms. Rewcastle Brown could be arrested when she travels to Spain later this week to visit an elderly relative who needs her support. There is also a risk that she could be held in detention and face extradition to Malaysia.
The undersigned organizations have serious concerns that the Malaysia National Central Bureau might be trying to use INTERPOL’s systems to judicially harass Rewcastle Brown.
The organizations are calling on INTERPOL to clarify whether there has been an attempt to issue a Red Notice or Diffusion by Malaysia, and whether such an attempt has been successful.
Clare Rewcastle Brown said:
“These criminal charges are linked to a civil defamation case and my lawyers believe they represent an abuse of due process to put pressure on me as the defendant against a politically powerful litigant. When the original criminal complaint was brought in 2018 the police declined to action it. However, last month the political party behind the multi-billion dollar 1MDB sovereign wealth fund theft, which lost an election after I had exposed the scandal, returned to office.
“I am concerned that the same actors who tried to abuse INTERPOL by having me arrested as a terrorist in 2015 will, having returned to power, attempt to file another INTERPOL Red Notice alert with the aim of having me detained anywhere in the world.
They are seeking to paint me as a criminal for exposing their corrupt practices, which is my job as a journalist, and they are using a claim of ‘criminal libel’ which is simply not a crime that exists in the UK or most democratic countries where the freedom of journalists to report on the politically powerful is rightly protected.
I could be thrown into jail at a border by officials who have no idea about the background to this case or the spurious nature of these charges and then face months of legal action fighting extradition charges to get back to Britain.”
Meanwhile, Bruno Min, Legal Director at Fair Trials said:
“Some countries will go to extraordinary lengths to quash dissent, including by abusing INTERPOL Red Notices and Diffusions to harass and intimidate critics, wherever they might be. INTERPOL must send a clear message to the world that it will not tolerate the misuse of its systems as a tool of oppression by ensuring that journalists and writers like Clare Rewcastle Brown are protected from abusive Red Notices and Diffusions.”
Jessica Ní Mhainín, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Index on Censorship, said: “It’s an indictment of international policing that a journalist travelling from one jurisdiction to another should fear an arrest for her work, which is overwhelmingly in the public interest. INTERPOL should take immediate steps to block any efforts by the Malaysian authorities to abuse its systems to harass Clare Rewcastle Brown, and ensure her unrestricted entry to Spain.”
The case of Clare Rewcastle Brown is not an isolated incident, as journalists around the world are increasingly becoming targets of persecution by governments and powerful individuals. In many countries, journalists who expose corruption and abuse of power are often met with legal intimidation, physical violence, and even murder.
In Russia, for example, journalists who report on corruption and human rights abuses have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, and physical violence. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented numerous cases of journalists being beaten, abducted, and even killed in Russia. In addition, Russian authorities have used the legal system to silence critical voices, with many journalists facing criminal charges for their work.
In China, the government has been known to silence journalists and bloggers who report on sensitive political and human rights issues. The CPJ has documented numerous cases of journalists being arrested, detained, and even tortured for their work. The government also censors the internet and media, making it difficult for journalists to report on sensitive issues.
In Turkey, the government has been known to use the legal system to silence critical voices. Since a failed coup attempt in 2016, the government has arrested and detained thousands of journalists and other media workers. The CPJ has documented numerous cases of journalists being arrested, detained, and even tortured for their work.
These are just a few examples of the many cases of journalists being persecuted around the world due to their reporting on corruption and abuse of power.
It is crucial that organizations such as INTERPOL take a strong stance against the misuse of their systems to silence critical voices and protect the rights of journalists to report on corruption and abuse of power without fear of persecution.