By Liam Higgins
Former president Rafael Correa was jubilant following Interpol’s Wednesday decision not to issue an international warrant for his arrest. He was not so happy, however, when Interpol denied a similar request in 2013 when he was president.
Wednesday’s decision means that Correa is free to travel outside of Belgium, his current home country, without fear of arrest as long as he doesn’t visit Ecuador.
In 2013, an angry President Correa attacked Interpol when it refused to issue a warrant for former president Jamil Mahuad, charged with crimes in connection with Ecuador’s 1999 banking crisis. “It is an insult to Ecuador that Interpol does not recognize the legitimacy of our system of justice,” Correa told the newspaper El Telegrafo. “I take this as a personal insult and all Ecuadorians should too.”
Interpol’s reason for refusing Correa’s request for Mahuad was very much like the one the former president applauded Wednesday. “Our organization is prohibited from intervening in matters of a political, military, religious or racial nature,” it said at the time.
On Thursday, government officials were clearly upset by Interpol’s decision although they did not publicly claim to be insulted. “We will take a hard look at the case we presented [to Interpol] and may consider making revisions and resubmitting it,” said an assistant to Court of Justice Judge Daniela Camacho, who prepared the request.
Fernando Balda, the man Correa is accused of trying to kidnap in 2012 was not so circumspect in his reaction. “It is the failure of the court that the arrest warrant was denied,” Balda said. “Their request was weak and did not apply sufficient pressure to the agency.”
In fact, Interpol has been consistent over the years in denying arrest warrants when it senses they are politically motivated. “They have been clear that they will not aid cases that could be vendettas against former government officials,” says Carlos Espinosa, a former Guayaquil judge. “When they issue warrants, it is usually for crimes that are internationally recognized, such as murders and robberies. Occasionally, they will provide warrants for financial crimes but they must feel certain there are no political motivations. They deny more than half of the requests they receive.”
In a recent decisions, Interpol refused to issue an arrest warrant for former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for “violating the constitution.” According to Espinosa, such a request is almost impossible to verify. “Interpol does not play the role of judge and if the evidence is not overwhelming and very clear, it will refuse the request.”
In another case, Interpol denied a request from India for a warrant for Zakir Naik, accused of promoting religious hatred. “Interpol refuses almost all requests related to religious issues,” says Espinosa.
He adds: “I believed from the beginning that Ecuador’s case for an arrest warrant for Correa was a long shot. The political overtones were simply too strong.”