Red Notice  Law Journal

Red Notice Law Journal

Red Notices, International Extradition, and Perspective

INTERPOL and Russia- time for sanctions?

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

The Russian Federation is one of INTERPOL’s 190 member countries, which means that it has the privilege of using INTERPOL’s databases to help it track down wanted suspects and convicts for prosecution and sentencing.  Along with that privilege comes the obligation to follow INTERPOL’s rules, not the least of which are the requirements that every member country abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and uphold their own due process laws.  Additionally, member countries must not use INTERPOL’s channels to pursue politically motivated  or corruptly filed criminal charges.  When countries violate their obligation to uphold these tenets, INTERPOL’s rules specifically provide that those countries can be sanctioned in a variety of ways.

While INTERPOL has refused to issue certain Red Notice requests as made by the Russian government, anecdotal evidence shows that its quasi-appellate body, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF), is still accepting representations by the Russian government that it is in compliance with its above-stated obligations.  A recent decision by the CCF contained the statement that Russian authorities had provided “satisfactory  elements regarding compliance with … the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Honestly, this kind of statement is stunning, given the international recognition and condemnation of the ongoing and endemic violations of human rights in Russia. In addition to the increasing drum beat of criticism of Russia’s human rights record, now another NGO has issued a statement, yet again affirming the truly horrific human rights violations still occurring in Russia.

The Open Dialog Foundation released a statement on May 9 regarding the involvement of Russian officials in the ‘Magnitsky list’ who are also involved in other politically motivated criminal proceedings in Russia. Open Dialog advocacy officer Thomasz Klosowicz presented information on other politically motivated criminal prosecutions and connected these cases to officials who were also connected to the Sergei Magnitsky case. The Red Notice Law Journal has previously addressed the Magnitsky case here and here.

In its statement, Open Dialog addressed the cases of Nadiya Savchenko, a former Ukrainian pilot and politician convicted for the murder of Russian journalists; the protestors of Bolotnaya Square and Manezhnaya Square, prosecuted for being members of opposition movements and organizations; the leaders of Yukos, accused of fraud and tax evasion; and Mukhtar Ablyazov, a opposition politician and businessman accused of embezzling funds. The purpose of the statement is to demonstrate how corruption and oppression in Russia has led to the abuse and exploitation of both its citizens and foreign nationals, and to serve as a call to action to raise awareness and prevent the unjust treatment and prosecution of these individuals. The Open Dialog Foundation says that it aims to identify that corruption in Russia is systemic and in direct violation of human rights laws.

As Russia’s human rights abuses continue to grow, the question must be asked, at what point does INTERPOL apply the sanctions available to it since its rules were changed in 2012, and hold Russia consistently accountable for its abuse of INTERPOL’s systems?

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

*(RNLJ thanks journalism student Elayza Gonzalez for her contribution to this post.)

 

INTERPOL’s CCF: Movement toward transparency

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

Given the fact that I have done my share of complaining about the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files demonstrating a lack of transparency and the need for more disclosure about its decision-making process, it is only fair that credit be given when the CCF does show progress on those fronts.

In a decision that my firm recently received from the CCF, the following pieces of information were included, in addition to its standard language:

  • the relevant arrest warrant was identified and attached to the decision
  • the date that the case was considered by the CCF was provided
  • the Commission’s final thoughts regarding each of my client’s claims were provided (although the precise nature of the analysis was not)
  • the Commission acknowledged other relevant information regarding the client

This type of decision provides for a better understanding of the Commission’s considerations, activity, and viewpoint.  It allows for the recipient to feel that a full review of the case did occur, and therefore contributes to the CCF’s credibility.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

INTERPOL’s CCF shows that it needs imposed time limits for responses

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

A reader recently sent in the following question:

I am a red notice subject. I made a request to CCF and received a reply confirmation that the request is admissible. This was more than 2 years ago and I haven’t received anymore replies.

Should I write back another request to CCF or should I just keep waiting?

I have read that a repetitive numbers of request submitted by the requesting subject can make the commission not process the request.

This reader’s question points out a glaring flaw in the CCF’s procedures: the absence of mandated timely responses or updates.  INTERPOL’s rules as applicable to the CCF only require that the CCF respond to applicants’ requests “at the earliest opportunity.” Such a vague requirement becomes problematic when individuals like the reader, above, wait for years to receive responses.  Even if the CCF has valid reasons for such long delays, faith in the organization’s validity and capability is greatly diminished when no updates are either provided or required.  The CCF has made strides in the last year to improve the speed of its response, and appears to have made some progress in that area, which is welcome. However, as the reader and others have experienced, many older cases are still lanquishing and remain unanswered by the CCF.

For the price of a stamp (or better yet, free of charge: an e-mail), the CCF could send a letter that would both a) assure the inquiring party that the Commission has addressed the case appropriately and that work is stalled for a valid reason, and b) strengthen the Commission’s reputation for upholding its mission as an active, responsible, and responsive guardian of individual human rights.  This is such a small price to pay to guard one’s reputation, and yet the CCF consistently refuses to do so.

Perhaps the most disheartening portion of the reader’s question is his/her reticence in making requests for updates to the CCF because of a concern that the CCF may become frustrated to the point of not processing the request.  This reminds me of an experience of a friend of mine years ago during trial.  She was required to object continually because the prosecution was continually attempting to violate her client’s right to a fair trial.  The judge finally said, “Counsel, I am tired of your objections!”  She responded, “And I’m tired of making them!”

Likewise, it is tiring to have to repeatedly request updates from the CCF, and even more so when no response is forthcoming.  No individual should be afraid of seeking a response that is required to be made from the CCF, nor should the individual be forced to seek updates.  The CCF should proactively manage its caseload and inform the parties as to the status of their cases in a timely fashion.  I can think of nowhere that two years is considered to be timely, and in fact, a two year delay in most circumstances would result in negative consequences:

  • If a lawyer refused to respond to her clients for two years, her practice would shut down.
  • If law enforcement officers refused to provide their supervisors with an update on a criminal investigation for two years, the officers would be fired or re-assigned.
  • If a judge refused to address a case for two years without stating a good reason, the matter would be addressed by a higher court.
  • If a prison failed to transport a convicted person from jail to prison for two years without stating a good reason, the convicted person would be released.

And in fact, none of these circumstances arise with any regularity, because it is simply not allowed.  The CCF, on the other hand, is allowed by INTERPOL’s rules to maintain cases without providing updates or timely responses, and so it does just that with some frequency.

So, the answer to the reader’s question unfortunately appears to be that an update may not be forthcoming without a request for an update, and repetitive requests for updates would not be necessary if updates were provided proactively.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

INTERPOL and U.S. reject baseless charges against US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen

Posted in Uncategorized

Clients often ask if a INTERPOL member country can request another Red Notice after it has been rejected or deleted already by INTERPOL. This concern arises when the Red Notice request is motivated by political concerns or personal vendettas.  And, as the case of Fethullah Gülen illustrates, those repeat requests are sometimes made, and INTERPOL usually recognizes them for what they are: more of the same.

INTERPOL has reportedly rejected Turkey’s renewed request for a Red Notice against Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, a cleric who lives in exile in the United States. The decision, reported here, cited a lack of evidence that Gülen had committed any crime, and also referred to political issues raised by Turkish officials.

Turkish prosecutors accused Gülen of being part of a “parallel structure,” which is illegal under the current regime.  As reported in Zaman Today,

The term “parallel structure” was invented by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to followers of the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, a grassroots social initiative inspired by the ideas of Gülen.

INTERPOL apparently indicated in its decision that it did not recognize the “parallel structure” as a illegal or terrorist organization. In other words, the charges against Gülen appear to have been fabricated based on his political activity. His case is widely viewed as part of a government crackdown on dissidents and political opposition, as described here.  U.S. officials have also thus far refused to extradite Gülen back to Turkey.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

INTERPOL’s CCF- more meetings, more staff, and new policy all lead to quicker decisions

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

In the last post, I addressed the fact that it seems that some of the CCF’s decisions are being issued more quickly than they have been issued in the past. The CCF’s 2014 Annual Report sheds some light on the Commission’s current approach to its ever-increasing caseload:

A continuing increase in the workload of the Commission was again apparent in 2014. In response to this situation, the Commission decided to double the number of days it spends in session, meaning that instead of meeting for 6 days as in 2014, the Commission will now meet for 12 days in 2015. 

… As this increase was particularly evident in relation to the number of requests received from individuals, the Commission adapted its methods of work to deal with this increasing workload and to improve its efficiency.

… In order to facilitate this additional workload the Secretariat to the Commission gained two additional lawyers and one additional administrative staff member.

Additionally, INTERPOL’s new refugee policy provides the CCF with clear, straightforward guidelines on how to efficiently process Red Notice challenges by refugees, thus providing another opportunity for the more rapid processing of certain cases.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

A refugee’s victory: INTERPOL’s new political refugee policy is already affecting lives for the better

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

My life today is different.” These are the words of one of our clients, Mauricio Ochoa Urioste, whose life changed from one day to the next because he is no longer listed as a wanted person on INTERPOL’s Red Notice list.

Earlier this year, INTERPOL announced its new policy on refugees, as discussed here. Mr. Urioste is one of the earliest beneficiaries of this policy, which has become effective rather quickly.**

Mr. Urioste is a politically active attorney from Bolivia who became the subject of a Red Notice when certain officials within the Bolivian government targeted him for prosecution of ordinary law crimes after he refused to participate in the execution of contractual agreements that he found to be illegal and he publicly criticized President Evo Morales.

Mr. Urioste had been wanted for criminal prosecution by Bolivian officials since 2010.  Realizing that he would not receive a fair trial in Bolivia, he made his way to Uruguay.  He was granted refugee status in 2011, but remained listed on INTERPOL’s wanted list. Of course, his wanted status meant that he risked detention if he traveled, even though he was classified as a political refugee.

With the implementation of INTERPOL’s new refugee policy, Mr. Urioste had a newly recognized avenue by which to seek the removal of his Red Notice.  While he also had the option of seeking removal on other grounds, the refugee policy provided a “bright line” test that the CCF could apply to his case for a faster analysis and decision.

The CCF’s decision in Mr. Urioste’s case also included more clear, instructive information that some decision letters in the past.  The CCF explained clearly that:

  • The data regarding Mr. Urioste were deleted from INTERPOL’s files;
  • All National Central Bureaus of INTERPOL’s member countries were notified that the information was destroyed; and all international police cooperation via INTERPOL’s channels in this case would not be in conformity with INTERPOL’s Constitution and Rules;
  • All National Central Bureaus were advised to update their national databases regarding Mr. Urioste’s information.

Congratulations to Mr. Urioste, and also to the CCF on its efficient imposition of a common-sense approach to the treatment of Red Notice subjects who are refugees.

** INTERPOL’s refugee policy was announced in May. We submitted his request for relief in late September, and we received the final decision in mid-November.  This is an extremely swift response time for an INTERPOL case, and response times do appear to be decreasing in many cases.  More on that topic in the next post.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Toward ending dictators’ abuse of INTERPOL’s tools: Fair Trials brings “Demonizing Dissidents” to D.C.

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

I’m having the very pleasant experience of feeling a bit of fall weather this weekend, not because Miami has become unseasonably cool, but because I am in Washington, D.C. to attend an event hosted by Fair Trials, International.

Fair Trials has organized “Demonizing Dissidents” to highlight the abuse of INTERPOL by dictatorships that persecute journalists, peaceful political dissidents, and refugees.  The London-based organization has been consistent and relentless in its quest for INTERPOL reform, particularly with respect to politically based prosecutions and violations of individual human rights.

Given the United States’ status as one of the primary funders of INTERPOL, it is appropriate that efforts at reform are undertaken here, as well.  While some U.S. officials have made sporadic, individualized attempts to correct abuses of INTERPOL, there has yet to be a concerted, official effort at truly ensuring the protection of individual due process and human rights.  The U.S. has both a political and moral obligation to take concrete steps to accomplish these goals, and INTERPOL appears to be poised to continue its efforts to achieve transparency, accountability within its National Central Bureaus, and the enforcement of applicable law in every Red Notice case.

The event will provide an opportunity to witness not only the very real cost to individuals who have suffered from the abuse of INTERPOL’s tools, but also to understand the cost to INTERPOL’s credibility and to the United States’ credibility as a nation of law and order if real reform is not imminent.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

 

INTERPOL’s CCF- How plain and clear responses will reduce the workload and increase transparency

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

Some of the best advice I ever received was from a professor who told my law school class to “knock off the legal mumbo-jumbo” and just speak plainly, so people can understand you.  When lawyers speak in legal-ese or in industry terms, the only people who really understand them are other lawyers, and other people in the industry being discussed.  The effect is that the person delivering the mumbo-jumbo is misunderstood, and perhaps, too, not trusted very much.  Sometimes, the responses issued by INTERPOL’s CCF ( the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files, the body that reviews requests for correction or deletion of data in INTERPOL’s system) fall into the “mumbo-jumbo” trap.

Today, I received yet another example of the not-quite-clear language that sometimes appears in the CCF’s response letters.

The subject individual, like many others, inquired about or challenged his or her INTERPOL data, either alone or with a lawyer, and received a response.  The response, however, left more questions in place than answers.  The letter from the Commission stated that the information the individual was requesting “is no longer in Interpol’s files.”  That’s it.  The individual, naturally, was not quite sure if this means that the Red Notice has been cancelled and deleted, if he or she can now travel freely, if the various National Central Bureaus of Interpol have been advised of the deletion, or why the information was no longer in the files.

The individual’s questions are reasonable, and since the CCF found his or her initial request to be admissible, it is necessarily bound by its rules to provide that individual with access to his or her files within INTERPOL’s databases.  “Access” is only “access” if it is meaningful; anything less is a mere hint or clue that requires further investigation and further contact with the CCF. In order for the CCF’s responses to be meaningful, and to avoid the need for repeated requests for explanation and clarification, here are a few ideas for the CCF’s consideration when generating future correspondence:

  • Include a statement that explains the significance of the CCF’s actions or decision.  In the example provided above, the letter might state, “Your data is no longer in INTERPOL’s files, which means that there is no data about you in INTERPOL’s files that could be used by any INTERPOL member country towards your detention or extradition, or prosecution or sentencing in any case, as of this date.
  • Explain why there is “no data:”  “The data in your name was removed because a doubt was raised as to its compliance with INTERPOL’s rules regarding private business disputes.”  “The data in your name was removed because the CCF received confirmation that you have already served your sentence.”
  • When sending letter explaining that a subject’s request has been deemed admissible, and a decision will be rendered “in due course,” explain what “in due course” means.  If it means that a decision should issue within two months, say that.  If it will be two years, say it.  If their case is number 243 in the queue, say it.  Just let people know.

Past experience with the CCF shows that the Commission is readily capable of issuing clear, simple responses.  The CCF has done so both in publicized cases, like this recent example, or in this letter that I received for a client after seeking clarification about the CCF’s previous letter:

Please note that in 2012, upon the request of one of its member countries, the International Criminal Police Organization-INTERPOL published a Red Notice seeking the arrest with a view to extradition of Mr.  (name omitted for privacy- we’ll call him “X”), born on —–.

Please further note that in 2013, following a review of the case by the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF), and upon the CCF’s recommendations, the Red Notice has been cancelled and all the information relating to the afore-mentioned individual was deleted from INTERPOL’s database.

The cancellation of an INTEPOL Red Notice and its deletion from INTERPOL’s files means that it no longer exists as far as the Organization is concerned. Therefore, no INTERPOL member country should ever be able to use the afore-mentioned Red Notice as a basis to detain Mr. X.

This type of letter tells us the CCF means, and why it is important.  In a previous letter regarding that client, the CCF had explained the reason for its decision as well.  If the CCF could do this in every case, in a single letter, it would prevent repeated requests for clarification; provide meaningful access to Red Notice subjects; and move further toward accomplishing the CCF’s goal of transparency.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

 

 

INTERPOL’s announcement in the cases of Rafat Ali Rizvi and Hesham al-Warraq

Posted in Uncategorized

Any time a lawyer is successful in his or her efforts to zealously represent a client, I feel an appreciation for the satisfaction that the lawyer must be experiencing.  Recently, though, I learned of an attorney’s success and I felt a sense of personal happiness for the attorney’s victory, though I had no involvement with the case at all.

Rutsel Silvestre Martha is an attorney in London who is the former General Counsel and Director of Legal Affairs of INTERPOL.  He has written extensively on INTERPOL matters, and as such, has been one of my teachers.  Dr. Martha recently prevailed on two very difficult, protracted Red Notice cases before INTERPOL’s CCF.  Certainly, any INTERPOL case is an uphill battle, and any win is worthy of recognition.  The cases of Rafat Ali Rizvi and Hexham al-Warraq, however, were particularly challenging.  The results of the cases were published on INTERPOL’s website, and such publication is generally limited to cases that have been the subjects of extraordinary publicity or concern to INTERPOL or its member countries.

Congratulations to Dr. Martha and his co-counsel, Mr. George Burn, on their successful work on behalf of their clients.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

INTERPOL and the tax man

Posted in INTERPOL's Tools and Practices, Uncategorized

A reader recently sent in the following questions:

Can you tell me would the IRS issue a diffusion notice in a civil tax audit involving offshore banking? Would Interpol even accept a diffusion notice on a non criminal case? And if so what does that mean to a person travelling?

The reader rightly questions whether INTERPOL would become involved in a civil matter, and it would not.  INTERPOL exists primarily for the purpose of assisting its member countries in bringing criminal subjects to justice, and its rules require a minimum sentence for a crime to qualify for circulation in INTERPOL’s databases.  INTERPOL does also circulate notices regarding individuals who are subjects of interest to criminal investigations; missing persons; and unidentified bodies, but all notices contain crime-related information.

However, if a case has both a civil element and a legitimate criminal element, INTERPOL may become involved in the matter.  For instance, if a tax audit reveals evidence of tax evasion or tax fraud, it would be reasonable to expect that criminal charges may follow.  In that case, a Red Notice may be issued for a person who is believed to have fled the jurisdiction.

Regarding the reader’s question about travel: if a Red Notice is issued due to a pending criminal case, then detention and extradition become possible.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.