Fronteras abiertas dificultan lucha antiterrorista

By Mark Trevelyan, Security Correspondent
BERLIN (Reuters) – United Nations (news – web sites) members should be made to share information on terror suspects with Interpol to make it easier to enforce a U.N. blacklist, a top official of the world police body says.
Former German police chief Ulrich Kersten, who began work as Interpol’s special representative to the United Nations in October, faces the daunting task of helping the two sprawling international bodies team up more effectively against terrorism.
«I’m encountering an extraordinary degree of interest from the U.N. in cooperating with Interpol,» the soft-spoken, white-haired Kersten told Reuters in an interview.
But the extent of the challenge becomes clear when it comes to investigating the 320 people and 115 entities on a U.N. blacklist of members and associates of Osama bin Laden (news – web sites)’s al Qaeda network and the Afghan Taliban.
Listed individuals — ranging from bin Laden himself to obscure figures who may not even be subject to arrest warrants — are banned from traveling and possessing arms, and member states are obliged to freeze their assets.
But Kersten said there was a gap between U.N. political will and practical police work.
«For example, a travel ban can as a rule only be enforced on the basis of corresponding national laws,» he said.
Such laws don’t exist in some European states — Germany, for one — whose citizens are free to travel throughout much of the continent without border checks.
«There are also difficulties in monitoring the ban on possessing weapons. There are practically no structures worldwide to effectively monitor this ban,» Kersten said.
Freezing of financial assets has been patchy and not as much wealth as expected has been intercepted, he added.
Kersten is concerned that member states can add suspects’ names to the U.N. sanctions list without providing detailed evidence against them and information to Interpol.
«We can’t take action and use our capabilities if we don’t have the information, that’s obvious. It may be that Interpol … has additional information on this person or group, which can then be brought together,» Kersten said.
Such data could come from Interpol’s Fusion Task Force, a special unit created since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001. It maintains a «terrorist registry» with profiles of some 7,500 people, including details like passport numbers, credit card details and phone numbers.
To tap such resources, «Interpol advocates that U.N. members should be required to make the necessary information available when people are put on the sanctions list,» Kersten said.
The U.N. has also approached him about the possibility of adding blacklisted individuals to Interpol’s international system of ‘wanted’ notices. That would require a change of Interpol’s statutes, because until now only police in member states have been able to request such notices.
Another difficulty Interpol faces is persuading its own members — police forces in over 180 countries — to entrust it with information they have on terrorism, Kersten said.
That is partly because of legal obstacles like data protection rules, Kersten says. «And partly the police is hampered from passing on this information because it originates from an intelligence service which will tell its own national police but won’t agree to passing it on to a third party.»
A U.N. resolution forcing member states to pool such information on a binding rather than voluntary basis, could provide a «push in the right direction,» Kersten said.
Information from different agencies that fight terrorism, such as police and intelligence services, belongs together, he said.
«It’s so simple — but it’s also so hard.»

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