Red Notice  Law Journal

Red Notice Law Journal

Red Notices, International Extradition, and Perspective

How INTERPOL contributed to the confusion about its role in the abduction of a Mexican minor to the United States

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Member Country Activity

This week, Mexican and U.S. officials participated in the “return” of a 14-year-old girl to her “mother” in the United States.  Except that the woman claiming to be the mother is not her mother, and the girl had never lived with the woman at all.

Rafael Romo of CNN reports that the case unfolded as follows:

According to a statement from the Mexican Foreign Ministry, the woman had recently traveled to Guanajuato and seen her daughter there.

“Derived on this information … and in compliance with international law … the judge in charge of the case asked Interpol to intervene to make the girl appear at a hearing in which the court would confirm her identity,” the statement said.

But what happened next puzzled both Alondra’s family and Mexican public opinion: The teenager was sent to the United States before her identify was positively confirmed.

Once in Houston, and with questions about her identity being raised by the girl’s biological parents, the Mexican Consulate in that city ordered DNA testing. The results confirmed that Alondra is not the daughter of the Houston woman.

Not surprisingly, the minor’s parents have said they are “taking action on the matter.”  This might concern INTERPOL.

Because of the use of the word, “Interpol,” by the Mexican Foreign Ministry, it appears to all the world that INTERPOL sent agents out to pick up the young lady.  Of course, this did not happen.  INTERPOL is a data-sharing agency based in Lyon, France.  Its member countries each have a liaison office within their own territory, and that liaison office is usually a law enforcement entity.  [INTERPOL clarified on April 23rd that it played no role in the matter when it tweeted:   “INTERPOLHQ not involved in #Alondra case” (@INTERPOL_HQ).]  INTERPOL takes no action to effect arrests, detain people, or aid in their extradition or transport; that is done by domestic law enforcement officers.

INTERPOL certainly contributes to this confusion by allowing its member countries to refer to their own liaison offices as if they are in fact INTERPOL offices.  For example, the United States’ NCB office refers to itself as “INTERPOL Washington;” Albania’s NCB uses the moniker, “INTERPOL Tirana;”  Canada lists its NCB as, “INTERPOL Ottowa,” and the list goes on and on.  The fact that INTERPOL allows the use of its name by liaison offices is interesting, given the organization’s efforts to create bright lines between itself and member country NCB activity in the revised Rules on the Processing of Data in 2012.

So when we see news articles reporting that INTERPOL took some particular action that was in fact carried out by domestic authorities, no one should be surprised, least of all INTERPOL.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.



INTERPOL’s looking for murderers, drug traffickers, and … Justin Bieber?

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Member Country Activity

INTERPOL states as its vision that it is “connecting police for a safer world.” So naturally, when I read that Argentina had requested a Red Notice for Justin Bieber, I initially had trouble envisioning how the world might be safer if Mr. Bieber were in custody in Argentina.

But then I thought, is it possible? Could the world benefit from INTERPOL’s participation in Argentina’s case against Mr. Bieber?

Argentina wants him to return to face charges for instructing his bodyguard to forcibly take a photographer’s camera and cell phone outside of a nightclub.  If the allegation proves to be true, then Mr. Bieber would have participated in a felony charge of robbery by force, which is a proper basis for a Red Notice.

And of course, he has pled guilty to  careless driving and resisting arrest  in Miami, accepted responsibility for egging a neighbor’s house in L.A..  He has also been accused of various other bad acts from assault to mile-high smoking of weed.

But still.  Justin Bieber wanted by INTERPOL? I took an informal survey within my local legal community, and here are some of the opinions on the matter that resulted:

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! That’s hilarious.”

“Good.  I hope he goes back to Canada.  He’s annoying everyone here.”

“I can’t stand him.  I don’t like his hair.”

[Eye roll; no words.]

“INTERPOL?  Why would they care about the Biebs?”

“Maybe it will teach him a lesson.”

“What- he left his monkey unattended somewhere? Please.”

Clearly, the people in my immediate surroundings are not big Beliebers, but neither do they take his criminal capacity very seriously.  And while INTERPOL does not govern its actions based on public opinion, one cannot help but think that, if INTERPOL did become involved in this case, people will naturally make comparisons between Justin Beiber’s case and the cases of other individuals wanted by INTERPOL.  These suspects are often charged with the most serious charges imaginable: murder, kidnapping, armed drug trafficking, war crimes, and the like- not a guy who allegedly took a cell phone and a camera.

If INTERPOL accepts Argentina’s request to include him on its list of wanted individuals, I’m not sure the public at large will feel safer.  I am sure, though, that I’ll watch the  SNL skit that pokes fun at both INTERPOL and Justin Bieber.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.


INTERPOL Red Notices – do they ever expire?

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Red Notice Challenges

A reader recently sent in the following question:

I wanted to know how long is a red alert in effect? I mean, when does it expires?
I heard it was 6 months, but I haven’t found the legal basis.
Can you help me please?

This question arises with some frequency, and with reason.  INTERPOL’s member countries circulate Red Notices for people who are wanted either to stand trial or to serve a sentence.  People who are the subjects of Red Notices naturally want to know when it is safe to travel without risking detention or extradition due to an old Red Notice.

Red Notices typically expire after five years.  However, they are subject to renewal if the INTERPOL member country that originally made the request advises INTERPOL that the notice should remain outstanding.  If a subject has not been apprehended after five years from the time the notice was originally issued, she should not assume that the notice no longer exists; it very may well be in effect.

In fact, some notices that should have been cancelled (due to the charges having been dropped, or the sentence having been served already, etc.) still remain in effect months or years later because the requesting member country fails to advise INTERPOL that the notice should be removed.

So the whole answer is that a Red Notice should be removed when its purpose has been served or no longer exists, or after five years, or longer if it’s renewed.

As always, comments and thoughts are welcomed.



INTERPOL’s Red Notices for Iranian terror suspects and the connection to the case of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman

Posted in Collateral Effects of Red Notices, INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Member Country Activity, Red Notice Challenges, Uncategorized

A reader recently sent in an inquiry about the case of Argentina’s scandal involving the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was shot just one day prior to his scheduled appearance at Argentina’s Congress.  As reported here, Mr. Nisman had filed a criminal complaint that accused Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and others of conspiring to cover up a probe into Iran’s alleged involvement in the attack on a Jewish community center here that killed 85 people, the worst attack targeting Jews since World War II.

INTERPOL issued Red Notices for several individuals in connection with the attack, as was requested by Argentina’s National Central Bureau.  INTERPOL later issued a statement regarding its efforts to facilitate talks between the two countries to resolve the growing dispute surrounding the notices.

The reader’s inquiry focuses on the agreement that Argentina and Iran later reached:

 Dear Ms. Estlund,

I would very much appreciate your comments on the situation that arose in connection with the red notices requested by Argentina over Iranian nationals under investigation for bombing a Community center in Buenos Aires.

Several years after the red notices were accepted by Interpol, both countries signed a Memorandum of understanding (details here:

Recently, a prosecutor (who later appeared dead in yet to be determined circumstances) denounced that the Memorandum was actually a plot to exonerate the Iranian nationals through the lifting of the red notices.

The truth is the red notices were never lifted and Argentina never requested it, as Interpol itself declared.

Nonetheless, I read a piece in the news claiming that the communication to Interpol stated in item 7 of the Memorandum can be construed as a basis to allow Iran to request the red notices to be lifted (or suspended or softened in any way), even when no express instructions were given by Argentina.

What’s your opinion on this? Could the communication included in item 7 of the Memorandum have reasonably been intended to allow Iran to attempt to lift the red notices?

The information in item 7 states:

“This agreement, upon its signature, will be jointly sent by both ministers to the Secretary General of Interpol as a fullfillment of Interpol requirements regarding this case.”

Even without an agreement, Iranian officials were free to seek the removal of any Red Notice directly through INTERPOL. Whether INTERPOL agreed to remove the notices or not would depend upon INTERPOL’s view of the case, specifically whether the Red Notices were requested in violation of any of INTERPOL’s governing rules or texts.  Such a direct approach would not at all guarantee the removal of the notices.

The agreement, however, appears to have been directed more toward the two countries’ efforts to resolve the matter in a fashion that awarded each party something of value: Iran presumably wanted the Red Notices lifted, and Argentina wanted something from Iran.  Multiple media outlets have reported that Mr. Nisman said President Kirchner was working behind the scenes to protect the Iranians in return for oil, at a time when the South American country was in the midst of an energy crisis.

In the end, INTERPOL seems to have maintained its position of neutrality, as its constitution mandates.  The question of a resolution to the issues between Argentina and Iran appears to have been put off, at least in the short term, because of the Argentinan public’s outrage about the Kirchner administration’s handling of this case.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

INTERPOL denies Russia’s Red Notice request for William Browder

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Member Country Activity, Politically Based Red Notices

The CCF’s Decision

According to a press release issued by the William Browder camp today, INTERPOL has decided -again- to reject Russia’s request to list him as a wanted suspect in INTERPOL’s databases.   This means that the CCF (Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’S Files) considered Russia’s request to have Mr. Browder listed as an internationally wanted fugitive in INTERPOL’s databases, and the CCF said no.  This is the third denial of a Browder-based request by Russia, and is hopefully the last.

INTERPOL has not yet published a statement about its decision, but given the high level of publicity of this case and INTERPOL’s decision to speak publicly in the past regarding the case, a forthcoming statement seems likely.

Mr. Browder’s Case

Mr. Browder’s case is by now very well-known in the international community and has been the subject of extensive media coverage as well as national legisltation in both the United States, which passed the Sergei Magnitsky Act, and in Russia, which passed the retaliatory Dima Yakovlev law.

The case has all the makings of a best-selling thriller: international politics, money, power, intimidation, corruption, and violence. If only  it were just a novel.  Tragically, Mr. Browder and his former attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, personally suffered through every detail of this case, with Mr. Magnisky paying the ultimate price for his role: his life.  Mr. Magnistky’s involvement began when he acted as a whistleblower and reported a tax scam to Russian authorities.  He was later arrested, detained, and charged with fraud; he died under mysterious circumstances nine months later.

In response to his lawyer’s death, Mr. Browder brought the full and considerable weight of his influence down against Russian authorities and individuals in every possible way, chief among which was his effective lobbying of the U.S. Congress to pass legislation condemnig the acts of those believed to have been assiociated with Mr. Magnistky’s death. The effect of the Act was to prohibit those individuals from entering the United States and from using the U.S. banking system.

Mr. Browder was then charged with tax evasion and fraud by Russian officials; shortly thereafter, Russia began a relentless campaign to use INTERPOL in its efforts to capture Mr. Browder.

What the decision says about the CCF’s process and independence

Russian officials, including President Putin, reportedly went to great lengths to obtain a Red Notice against Mr. Browder. After the CCF accepted the case for consideration for a third time, President Putin met with past Secretary General Ronald Noble this past October.  INTERPOL characterized the meeting as an effort to focus on areas where collaboration must continue between INTERPOL and its member countries, though it seemed impossible to resist speculating that Putin would attempt to engage in lobbying efforts about Mr. Browder’s case.  Additionally, the Browder press release alleges that Russia attempted to influence the CCF’s position by lobbying for sympathetic INTERPOL member countries to be appointed to the Executive Committee, as well as by appealing to INTERPOL to have re-opened the case in the first place.

 The CCF is publicly represented as the independent review body of INTERPOL.  From my experience, the CCF does jealously guard its independence.  Clients who have come to me with stories of well-connected and influential contacts who have attempted to intervene in Red Notice cases generally, and politely, have been told by the CCF to follow the CCF’s rules when seeking relief.  This has been true for ambassadors, former heads of state, current legislators, and the like.  Nonetheless, INTERPOL’s decision to re-consider this case did give one pause.

On the issue of influence, any observers of President Putin and his efforts to achieve his goals must recognize that Russia’s efforts to obtain a Red Notice against Mr. Browder had to have been formidable.

And the CCF did not capitulate.  Congratulations to the CCF for a job well done; and to Mr. Browder and his legal team for their perseverance.

Going forward: William Browder and other victims of corrupt INTERPOL member countries 

In the next post, I’ll address the collateral toll taken on individuals who have been persecuted by corrupt INTERPOL member countries, and how a “regular Joe” might fare in circumstances that Mr. Browder has endured.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.



INTERPOL’s CCF increases its sessions for 2015- an encouraging sign

Posted in INTERPOL's Infrastructure, INTERPOL's Tools and Practices


It appears that one of the first orders of business upon Nina Vajić‘s assuming her post as Chair of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF) was to increase the number of scheduled sessions for the year.

The scheduled sessions for this year will be as follows:

25th – 27th February 2015

27th -29th May 2015

25th September 2015

16th -18th December 2015

INTERPOL observers will note that this is an increase from the thrice-yearly sessions that are normally scheduled.  The addition of a session will allow for more cases to be considered, and for cases to be considered sooner than they would under the previous schedules.

Adding more sessions to the yearly schedule is a solution to the CCF’s backlog of cases that I publicly wished for over two years ago, here.  It is encouraging to see that the CCF’s new chair is implementing this change, and it will be interesting to see what other changes her leadership will bring.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.



INTERPOL abuse highlighed at Fair Trials International Event at European Parliament

Posted in Uncategorized

Last month I had the opportunity to attend an event organized by Fair Trials International at the European Parliament.  The event was hosted by Judith Sargentini, MEP, and featured speakers who have been victims of abusive INTERPOL wanted alerts. The event was designed to be an opportunity to consider how EU institutions can work to prevent political abuses of INTERPOL.

The event was led by Fair Trials’ Alex Tinsley, and attended by Libby McVeigh, Fair Trials’ head of Law Reform, along with other attorneys, human rights supporters, and reporters.

Two of the speakers were Bhar Kimyongur and Nicolai Koblyakov, who shared their experiences as Red Notice subjects.  Fair Trials’ full story about the event is here.

Many thanks to Fair Trials for their continued and tireless efforts toward the protection of basic due process rights, and to the European Parliament for providing a venue for such important issues to be addressed.

As always, comments and questions are welcomed.





INTERPOL’s review of William Browder’s case

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Member Country Activity, Politically Based Red Notices

It would seem to all observers of the William Browder case that INTERPOL’s most recent consideration of Russia’s request to issue a Red Notice against Mr. Browder would result in a swift denial, that has not happened.

Instead, INTERPOL is taking its time in issuing a decision on the matter, and has not issued any indication of what its decision might be, as reported here.  INTERPOL’s reconsideration of the case was previously discussed in this blog;  and INTERPOL has previously issued public statements on the matter not just once, but twice. The organization found that Russia’s request was predominantly political in nature and therefore INTERPOL was prohibited from being involved in the case.

Given INTERPOL’s former statements on the case and Russia’s colossal judicial corruption problems, it is difficult to imagine that INTERPOL would change course at this point.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.




Final session of the year for INTERPOL’s CCF

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Red Notice Challenges

Last week, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF) met for its final session of the year. Each year, the CCF meets three times a year, which is the minimum number of times it is required to meet according to INTERPOL’s rules.

During its session meetings, the Commission members consider the requests of individuals who seek some form of relief from the the Commission.  Frequently, those individuals are the subjects of Red Notices and they or their attorneys are requesting to have the Red Notices removed or modified.

Decisions for cases pending from earlier this year and last year  seem to be coming particularly slow in coming out of the CCF.  We’ll soon find out whether the new composition of the Commission will have any bearing on the timeliness of its decisions.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Will INTERPOL Issue a Red Notice Against an Innocent Person?

Posted in Red Notice Challenges

“But I’m innocent!”  Clients who are the subjects of Red Notices frequently and understandably feel a sense of outrage over the fact that a Red Notice has been issued against them when they are in fact innocent of the charges in the underlying arrest warrant.

When clients ask if INTERPOL will withdraw a Red Notice based on innocence, the unfortunate answer is, no.  In fact, INTERPOL clearly states that the persons who are subjects of Red Notices are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.  INTERPOL is not a trier of fact.  It acts as a communicator of information between law enforcement agencies, and aids in bringing the subjects of Red Notices before the proper authority for trial or sentencing.

So when a person offers only innocence as a challenge to a Red Notice, INTERPOL’s response will be the same as Tommy Lee Jones’ U.S. Marshall character in the movie, The Fugitive, when a sentenced fugitive tells him, “I didn’t kill my wife!”  Just as INTERPOL does not determine innocence or guilt, neither does the U.S. Marshall.  Of course, his response is:  “I don’t care.”  INTERPOL is only compelled to remove a Red Notice when a wanted person or her attorney presents the organization with compelling evidence that maintaining the Red Notice would violate its rules.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

(This post was originally published on in June of 2011 by Red Notice Law Journal and is published here with additional information.)