The federal government says Canada will work on reforming the world's largest international police organization after Russian President Vladimir Putin put one of his most prominent critics on Interpol's most-wanted list for the fifth time last week.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale's commitment comes after Interpol rejected Russia's arrest notice for U.S.-born financier and anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder.
Mr. Browder has led an international campaign to get laws passed in memory of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was beaten to death in 2009. Mr. Browder says he was targeted in retaliation for Canada's passage of a bill last week that lets the federal government sanction human-rights abusers.
"The government applauds Interpol's removal of Russia's politically motivated diffusion notice on Bill Browder. Interpol is a valuable tool to combat cross-border crime that should not be abused for other purposes. Canada will work towards reforming the system," said Scott Bardsley, Mr. Goodale's press secretary.
Mr. Bardsley did not provide any details on what specific reforms Canada would like to see at Interpol.
Mr. Browder says Canada and like-minded countries should lead a reform effort at Interpol to ensure that countries that abuse the system, including Russia, can't repeatedly issue notices against individuals such as himself for political reasons.
Russia targeted Mr. Browder on Oct. 17 through an Interpol diffusion notice, which is less formal than a red notice but can also be used to request the arrest or location of an individual. Unlike red notices, diffusions do not require prior approval from Interpol before they are circulated.
"There cannot be a situation where there's no vetting for Russia … and other countries where there's a consistent pattern of abuse. Interpol's not going to reform itself. This is going to have to be done by pressure from member states, like the United States, Canada and Great Britain. We can't be passive about this," Mr. Browder told The Globe and Mail from London, where he lives.
Michelle Estlund, a Miami-based lawyer who specializes in Interpol, said Canada is well positioned to head up reform talks at the organization.
"The Canadian government has such a good reputation for civil discourse and is often a very reasonable voice on the world stage. So if a country like Canada were willing to put forth its voice, that would be something that would be probably very important in this kind of a conversation," she said.
Ms. Estlund said Interpol needs to better guard itself against abuses of its system by subjecting countries that have misused its notices, such as Russia, Venezuela and Ecuador, to extra scrutiny. She suggested a system that would flag particular countries when they try to issue a notice and review their requests.
She warned against expelling or suspending abusive nations from Interpol, as those countries could become safe haven for criminals trying to avoid arrest.
Mr. Browder said Interpol has told its members that Russia will no longer be able to use its notices on his case. However, Ms. Estlund said Russia could technically target Mr. Browder again by accusing him of a different crime and issuing a new diffusion notice for that crime. She said something has to be done to help people, especially those who do not have Mr. Browder's financial resources and clout, who find themselves unjustly listed on the Interpol wanted list.
Asked about Interpol's decision to remove Mr. Browder from its wanted list, the Russian embassy in Ottawa said he should be "held responsible for large scale financial fraud and tax evasion of which he is convicted." In 2013, Russia sentenced Mr. Browder in absentia to nine years in prison.
His removal from the Interpol system comes as he prepares to visit Canada next week with the Magnitsky family to celebrate the passage of the Canadian version of the U.S. Magnitsky Act. Nikita, Mr. Magnitsky's 16-year-old son, is hoping to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and present him with a painting he created as a token of appreciation to the Liberal government for passing the sanctions law in memory of his father.
Mr. Browder hired Mr. Magnitsky as the lawyer for his Moscow-based Hermitage Capital Management hedge fund in 2005. Mr. Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 and died in prison in 2009 after accusing Russian officials of theft. Investigations by Russia's human-rights council eventually concluded he was beaten to death by prison staff.