Red Notice  Law Journal

Red Notice Law Journal

Red Notices, International Extradition, and Perspective

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.)

INTERPOL thanks outgoing Secretary General Ronald Noble and welcomes incoming Secretary General Jürgen Stock

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

INTERPOL’s next Secretary General, Jürgen Stock, was officially elected this past Friday at the organization’s annual General Assembly.  Back in June of this year, INTERPOL’s Executive Committee chose Mr. Stock as its candidate to succeed Ronald Noble in INTERPOL’s “CEO” position.

INTERPOL’s President Mireille  Ballestrazzi welcomed the election of the new Secretary General, and said: “The high-level responsibilities Mr Stock has discharged at national police level, combined with his extensive international experience, will serve as major assets to successfully lead the Organization in the years to come.”  In his speech to the General Assembly, Mr. Stock expressed his long-standing passion for INTERPOL and discussed his previous involvement with the organization.  His bio confirms that he has the law enforcement-focused practical and academic background expected of a Secretary General.  His speech and his public statements in the past also provide insight into his beliefs about the role of business and the private sector in relation to INTERPOL’s goals.  In 2012, Mr. Stock emphasized a need for international collaboration on crime fighting with both public and private sector involvement.  He included those points in his speech to the General Assembly as well.  In the next five years and possibly longer, INTERPOL and the international policing community will witness how Mr. Stock’s vision for INTERPOL materializes.

Mr. Stock’s predecessor, Ronald Noble, received a tribute for his ‘outstanding work’  from President Ballestrazzi:  “Thanks to Mr. Noble, INTERPOL has been transformed through modernization, technological development and innovation, setting a benchmark in the history of the Organization.”  As Secretary General for the past three terms, Mr. Noble oversaw numerous changes to the organization.  Among my personal favorites of the improvements made during Mr. Noble’s leadership period were the greatly needed changes to the rules governing INTERPOL (the Rules on the Processing of Data) and the modification and modernization of INTERPOL’s website to make it more clear, thorough, and user-friendly.  Law enforcement types likely favored improvements such as the implementation of INTERPOL’s Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore; the I-Link system, and the Global Security Initiative.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

A new leader for the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files

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

INTERPOL has a new Chairperson for the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files, which is the quasi-appellate arm of the organization.  Nina Vajić  assumed her new post as Chairperson in September.

INTERPOL’s announcement regarding Ms.Vajić’s new term is found here.  In her primary profession, she is a professor of Human Rights Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb, Croatia.  She is a former judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.  Her bio, here, boasts an impressive background in international and human rights law.

Ms. Vajić’s assignment to the CCF is clearly a strong statement in support of the CCF’s desire to be regcognized as a protector of individual human rights.  As such, observers both from within the organization and in the international human rights community will watch with interest to see how she manifests the CCF’s often-stated goal of securing the rights of those individuals seeking relief from the CCF.

In the next post, more on personnel changes at INTERPOL: a new Secretary General is elected.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

INTERPOL and politically motivated Red Notices in relation to extradition court proceedings

Posted in Collateral Effects of Red Notices, INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Politically Based Red Notices

In the last post, I discussed INTERPOL’s refusal to issue certain Red Notices based on INTERPOL’s determination that the Red Notice requests were predominantly political in nature.  INTERPOL’s constitution specifically prohibits the organization’s involvement in matters of a political nature, so even where there is a criminal element to the request, if the overriding element is political, the request will be denied by INTERPOL.

So what happens when INTERPOL recognizes a particular criminal charge as being politically motivated, and refuses to issue a Red Notice, but the accused person finds himself faced with extradition proceedings?  If INTERPOL has characterized a charge as being politically motivated, is a court bound by that finding when it determines extraditability?

When courts hold extradition hearings, the issues before the court are normally quite limited.  The court will likely consider whether dual criminality exists, whether a valid treaty exists and applies, whether any exceptions to the treaty are relevant, and whether there is a basis (be it probable cause or another standard) for the underlying charges.  Most extradition treaties contain an exception for politically based offenses, and if the court finds that a charge fits that exception, it will deny the extradition request.

A court is not bound by INTERPOL’s findings, as noted by INTERPOL in its public statement on the issue:

. . .  INTERPOL may refuse to process a request on the basis of Article 3, but States alone have the sovereign right to determine whether an offence is political (in the context of extradition proceedings for instance).

For example, if the Organization agrees to record a request from a Member State in its database, another Member State is nonetheless completely free to consider that the charges are for political offences. If INTERPOL refuses to record a request which it considers contrary to Article 3, the requesting Member State may forward its request through any channel other than INTERPOL’s.

However, the court is obviously entitled to rely upon INTERPOL’s decision as persuasive authority, just as it could for non-binding judicial decisions or for any other secondary authority.  Because of the fact that most courts have relatively less experience with claims of political motivation than does INTERPOL, it makes sense that they would look to an INTERPOL decision for guidance when making such decisions.  Given that those decisions are usually not published, it would be the responsibility of the attorneys to make the court aware of INTERPOL’s decision her client’s case.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

INTERPOL’s evaluation of recent Russian Red Notice requests- criminal vs. political charges

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

Russia’s requests for Red Notices have been the subject of significant media coverage in the last two years.  Most recently, INTERPOL reportedly refused to issue a Red Notices for Ihor Kolomoisky, who is accused of masterminding murders, using prohibited methods and means of warfare, abduction, and other crimes linked to the armed conflict in the southeastern regions of Ukraine.  He is also allegedly financing the Right Sector, a nationalist party in Ukraine.

Similarly, INTERPOL has refused to issue Russia’s Notice request for businessman William Browder, as discussed here.   In both cases, INTERPOL’s refusal to issue the Notices was reportedly based on their political nature.

However, not every case with a political element is rejected by INTERPOL.  Earlier this year, INTERPOL published a Red Notice in the name of Dimitriy Yarosh.  Yarosh also supports the Right Sector, and the underlying charges for the Red Notice are directly related to his political goal of fighting against the Russian occupation of Ukraine.  Russian authorities allege that he has committed “extremist” and “terrorist” actions  in the course of his political activity.

So why does INTERPOL accept and publish one Red Notice that has political elements, but reject another?  The reason is that Article 3 of INTERPOL’s constitution only prohibits the organization from becoming involved with matters that are predominantly political.  Where an issue has a political component but is predominantly criminal, INTERPOL interprets the issue’s nature to be criminal, and not political for purposes of its involvment.  INTERPOL specifically notes that, as criminal activity and legal matters continue to evolve, analysis of political issues evolves as well, particularly with respect to terrorism charges:

Notably, INTERPOL’s General Assembly concluded that the application of Article 3 does not necessarily prevent the Organization from providing support in the field of counter-terrorism.

It seems clear that accusations of terrorist actions will likely survive a political motivation analysis and will result in a Red Notice being issued when requested by an INTERPOL member country.  Based on the decisions mentioned above, INTERPOL found Kolomoisky’s accusations, which involve violent acts, to be predominantly political.  Yarosh’s accusations, on the other hand, which involve violence and terrorism, were found to be predominantly criminal.

Other crimes, such as financial crimes, are widely known to be the type that are most often used by controlling governmental authorities to discourage opposition and are more likely to be recognized as predominantly politically motivated by INTERPOL.

In the next post, I’ll talk about the relationship between INTERPOL’s determination that a case is politically motivated and an extradition court’s determination of the same issue.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

The effect of Russia’s court system(s) on INTERPOL

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

In the last post, I discussed the endemic corruption in Russia’s courts and the need for INTERPOL’s heightened scrutiny of Russia’s Red Notice requests.  Today’s focus is on the reason that some litigants fare much worse than others in Russia’s courts, and how that affects INTERPOL.

While Russians generally seem to agree that basic, low-level civil disputes between similarly-situated litigants are commonly handled in Russian courts with an efficient turnaround time and relatively fair resolutions, disputes between individuals with differing levels of power are another matter entirely.

Last year, Reuters reporter Danielle Wiener-Bronner explained the reason for this distinction in her article, “The Russian legal system’s split personality.”  Complainants in Russia understand that more powerful litigants have both the ability to influence the judiciary and the confidence to litigate in court knowing that their influential efforts are likely to succeed.  The “more powerful litigants” may be wealthy individuals or officials within the Russian government. This influential ability extends to criminal cases as well, as has been addressed in this blog previously here

Recent news from Russia appears to confirm that Russian authorities continue to use the courts for political purposes.  The Wall Street journal reported in June that Russian authorities filed criminal fraud charges against three supporters of opposition candidate Alexei Navalny.  

Criminal charges have also been filed against Gleb Fetisov, a Russian businessman and billionaire.  In a case that echoes many Red Notice cases from Venezuela and Ecuador, financial charges were filed against him after a bank he no longer owns was accused of failing to maintain liquidity in a manner that would allow it to meet its financial obligations. Fesitov has supported opposition party leaders, which is not surprising in Red Notice cases, but is unusual for most wealthy individuals in Russia.  There is reportedly an “unspoken agreement that the rich don’t support the opposition,” and Fesitov supporters believe that his criminal case is a consequence of his political activity.

Another current example of Russia’s request for Red Notices in political-or business-based cases is that of Nikolay Koblyakov. The Telegraph reporter Peter Oborne described the case as follows:

On returning to Russia, [Koblyakov] started a chain of care homes for the elderly which seem to have been both compassionate and profitable. As so often happens in Russia, competitors with the backing of the regime forced him out of business.

Since then, Mr Koblyakov has lived in Paris, where he was a founding member of Russie-Libertés, an NGO that campaigns for Russian democracy. He participated in protests involving Free Pussy Riot, the controversial 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and a demonstration under Ukranian flags outside the National Assembly in Paris on the night of Putin’s D-Day anniversary dinner with President Hollande.

Mr. Koblyakov now faces criminal charges; his extradition hearing in Bulgaria has been continued until October, and his request to leave the country temporarily was denied.

When these types of cases create the basis for Red Notices, INTERPOL is left to sift through the evidence presented by the Red Notice subject and decide whether to hold Russia accountable for its historic and current corruption problem, or whether to turn a blind eye and to trust that Russia is abiding by its obligations as an INTERPOL member country.  Based on the news out of Russia lately, it seems that INTERPOL will have ever-growing opportunities to make those decisions. 

As always, comments and thoughts are welcomed.



Why Russia’s corruption problem is also INTERPOL’s problem

Posted in Member Country Activity, Politically Based Red Notices, Red Notice Challenges

INTERPOL has received improper requests for Red Notices from Russia in the past, and all current indicators point to a worsening of the situation rather than an improvement.

Russia is an INTERPOL member country and is currently ranked 28 on Transparency International’s corruption index.  A score of 28 means that Transparency International has determined that Russia is close to the “highly corrupt” end of the corruption scale, and is more corrupt than 126 other evaluated countries. NGO Freedom House rated Russia’s political rights at a 6 out of 7 (a 7 is the worst on the scale).  Amnesty International has found that,

Despite ongoing attempts to improve the efficiency and independence of the judiciary, alleged political interference, corruption and the collusion of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials continued to result in frequent reports of unfair trials.

Individuals are not the only victims of corruption in Russia.  Companies are also frequently targeted by Russian officials.  Jens Berthelsen, an anti-corruption specialist who prepares companies for doing business in Russia, was quoted in CNBC’s “Is Russia Too Corrupt for International Business” about the plight of business entities in Russia:

 Companies often face extortion or have court cases brought against them.

Based on the deeply entrenched corruption in Russia’s court and political systems, it would seem that the country would be a great candidate for INTERPOL’s list of problem members.  INTERPOL has recognized in the past that certain of its member countries were abusive (my word) of INTERPOL’s tools.  For example, INTERPOL’s Secretary General visited Venezuela in 2011 and the organization engaged in significant efforts to open “direct channels of communication between Venezuela’s Fiscalia and INTERPOL’s Office of Legal Affairs” (INTERPOL’s words).  Following INTERPOL’s recognition of certain member countries’ abusive INTERPOL activity, it has appeared from the practicioner’s perspective that INTERPOL has viewed Red Notices from those countries with a more skeptical eye than before.

And that may already be the case with Russia.  In terms of high-profile cases, INTERPOL has refused to issue Red Notice requests where issuing the Notices would violate its rules.  Where the cases are less publicized, however, we should expect that INTERPOL will review the Notices only upon the request of the Red Notice subjects and/or their attorneys.

In the next post, I’ll address the issue of Russia’s “two parallel court systems” for run-of-the-mill cases and cases with litigants having extreme power differentials.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

INTERPOL Red Notices and Immigration- Why a Red Notice might cause deportation or inadmissibility even when it does not lead to a criminal arrest

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

In the last post, I discussed the case of Carmelo Bruzzese, who is wanted by Italian authorities as a Red Notice subject charged with Mafia association.

Although Bruzzese is living openly in Canada, Canadian authorities have never arrested him for the purpose of initiating extradition proceedings due to a lack of dual criminality of the criminal charges.

Even when a Red Notice subject is not extraditable, for whatever reason, the Red Notice still may serve as a catalyst for him or her to be removed from the country through immigration proceedings. In the case of Bruzzese, he has finally been arrested by Canada’s immigration authorities. He is scheduled to appear before the Immigration and Refugee Board for the purpose of determining whether Italy’s criminal charges should form the basis for Bruzzese’s deportation. If he is deported, he will likely be returned to his country of origin.

A Red Notice subject could also be deemed inadmissible to the country he seeks to enter legally. When a person is determined to be inadmissible, he is normally scheduled for removal from the country.

(Bruzzese is one of several alleged men affiliated with the Calabria-based Mafia organization called the ’Ndrangheta.  Its alleged members reportedly have been arrested this year in Italy, Colombia, the Netherlands, and Germany.)

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.