Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), the leading human rights NGO, is among those to voice concern. The Brussels-based organisation told this website that it is "deeply concerned about the increasing political instrumentalisation of Europol and Interpol by tycoons in Eastern Europe who have engaged in politics at the highest level and torpedo the EU-supported democratic development of their countries by corrupting the judiciary and getting rid of their political opponents."
Willy Fautre, director of HRWF, said it was "getting more and more complaints from opposition leaders in the Eastern part of the EU and beyond who claim to be unduly prosecuted and victims of abuses of international arrest warrants." One such case is that of Renato Usatii, leader of "Our Party", a political party in Moldova.He is also the mayor of Beltsi, the country's second city.
An international arrest warrant, or "red notice" as it's also known, has been issued against him by Interpol's office in Moldova. But, it is claimed, the man who took the decision to issue the warrant is an associate of the all-powerful business tycoon Vlad Plahotniuc, the man who effectively rules Moldova, and a bitter political enemy of Usatii.
Usatii, currently in exile in Russia, and his supporters say that Vitalie Pirlog was directly nominated by Plahotniuc to the Interpol board that decided to issue a warrant and it is for that reason that his impartiality has been questioned.
Interpol is based in Lyon and is the second largest political organisation after the United Nations. There are now demands from lawyers representing Usatii for Pirlog to be removed from the body that will decide Usatii's fate.
Pirlog, branded a "crony of Plahotniuc", has a five year term on the board and it is claimed his involvement represents a serious conflict of interest. A lawyer for Usatii said, "Mr Pirlog has presented himself as a lawyer with data protection expertise but it is a known fact that he was minister of justice under communist rule in Moldova from 2006-09.
"All this information could have easily be obtained from the internet before he was appointed to the Interpol body. Had these details been sought and taken into consideration it is very unlikely that Mr Pirlog would have been considered suitable." "The danger is that, as he chairs this particular body, Mr Pirlog will personally deal with the Usatii case and therefore exert a crucial influence on the eventual outcome."
The legal representative went on, "In Moldova Mr Pirlog is also known as a crony of Plahotniuc who is, realistically, the only person who could have nominated him for the Interpol post." She said that as an associate of Plahotnuic,a well-known political opponent of Usatii, Pirlog cannot be considered suitable for a position on a body that will decide his (Usatii's) fate.
"We are now asking Interpol and the international community to look closely at this case which calls into question the whole system of international arrest warrants. "We believe Pirlog should be removed from this body immediately as there is a real risk of a conflict of interest. Under no circumstances should he be allowed to be involved in this case."
The accusations against Usatii have been dismissed as "absolutely groundless." A close aide of Usatii said, "He has been charged with something he has never done. All the accusations had been put forward are in violation of the judicial procedures in Moldova." Plahotniuc - who is the country's sole oligarch - has been accused of exerting an unhealthy influence across a vast range of public and civil life in Moldova. He is said to be determined to keep Usatii in exile.
Several international organisations including the Council of Europe, have voiced concern about this while the NGO Human Rights Watch says that the situation in the country "should be taken under strict control." The political situation in Moldova, branded a " captured state", was the subject of a recent visit by Moldovan Opposition MPs to the Strasbourg based Council of Europe.
HRWF's Fautre added, "The alarm sounded by the Moldovan delegation in Strasbourg cannot remain unheard, including in Brussels."