Interpol gets own passport
Doha - They may not have diplomatic passports but Interpol police and experts should be able to cross borders more easily thanks to a new blue passport for the global policing organisation.
The goal of the new passports, approved on Monday at the Interpol general assembly in Doha, is to save time in the event of crisis, disaster or attack, and allow investigators and specialists to reach the site as soon as possible.
"Criminals can cross borders quickly and effortlessly," Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble said, "while the leaders of our central national bureaus and even headquarters staff are slowed or blocked by formalities."
For 18 months, Interpol experts have been working with private suppliers on the creation of "Interpol travel documents," which will include a passport booklet and identification card with electronic chips.
A resolution adopted by the general assembly "encouraged member states to adopt the travel documents and to grant special privileges for obtaining visas to their holders."
"We're asking for visa waiving or a special visa status - the visa granted on arrival at the airport, for example. We don't ask for a diplomatic status, like a UN laisser-passer," said Ralph Markert, the project's general manager.
The process will take time, because each of the 188 member states will have to decide what type of privileges they are willing to provide for issuing visas, Markert said.
After an international bid, Interpol selected Ukrainian consortium EDAPS for the documents and US company Entrust for developing the necessary software.
The passport will contain a variety of security measures, including laser engraving on a polycarbonate page, a hologram, an Interpol symbol appearing in white light, and a photograph of the carrier reproduced with tiny holes.
The ID card will also contain various features designed to improve security, including a special code to enable agents to connect, from any computer in the world, to an encrypted Interpol network.
"A number of member countries don't yet have special and secured accounts for police officers - they use Yahoo or Hotmail," Markert said. But "with that, when I receive an email from them, I'll be sure it's them."
The 79th annual general assembly, which opened in the Qatar capital on Monday under the theme "Connecting Police for a Safer World," is to wrap up on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the general assembly approved the creation of a new high-tech anti-crime centre based in Singapore, intended to complement the agency's existing general secretariat in Lyons, France.
The centre plans to go into full operation in late 2013 or early 2014.