(Today’s post is courtesy of guest author, Isabel Alcántara*)

According to INTERPOL’s most recent Annual Report, police worldwide searched INTERPOL’s databases 5.4 billion times in 2018 [this is an increase of 18% from 2017]. The increase may be due to the implementation of new systems, such as:

• The STADIA Knowledge Management System, which supports security of major events, such as sporting and political events.

• The facial recognition database that was launched in 2016.

• A new version of INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation database that was launched in June of 2019, making it simpler to populate the database with new images and videos.

• The I-ONE initiative launched in April 2018 to upgrade equipment in 31 African National Central Bureaus, which give police at airports, seaports and land border crossings access to INTERPOL’s secure I-24/7 network that supports automatic traveler screening.

These systems, among the 18 INTERPOL databases, make more information available to INTERPOL and the entities that search its databases.

Amidst the stored data are INTERPOL’s color-coded notices, which are international alerts for fugitives, suspected criminals, persons and entities subject to UN Security Council Sanctions, potential threats, missing persons, dead bodies and criminal methods. Details on these notices are stored in a database known as the INTERPOL Criminal Information System. National police use this database during their investigations via I-24/7, a secure global police communications system.

At the request of the member country or international entity, extracts of notices may also be published on the Organization’s public website.

Law enforcement searches of INTERPOL’s databases in 2018 resulted in 1.1 million ‘hits’- instances where data stored in the databases matched search criteria. National police then decide on what action to take upon making a positive match.

All of this increased data entry and storage capability means that someone who has traveled internationally out of the country where her criminal charges originated is increasingly likely to have a Red Notice published under her name.

In the next post, we’ll discuss how some individuals handle getting ahead of a red notice by submitting preemptive requests to INTERPOL.

* Isabel Alcántara is a juris doctor candidate in her third year at St. Thomas University School of law. Her most recent achievements include being awarded the Book Award in both Legal Storytelling and Persuasion and Space Law. Book Awards honor academic achievement by recognizing the top student in each course.

A Red Notice Law Journal reader  recently asked a common question arises when one’s life is touched by INTERPOL.  The question:

How can you check whether you have a red notice in your name? I checked the Interpol site but I feel information is not accurate or updated. Please advise.

  • The answer is, of course, it depends. A small percentage of INTERPOL’s Red Notices are actually published on INTERPOL’s website.  The reason for this is that many of INTERPOL’s member countries choose not to publish the majority of their Red notices.  Bear in mind that the member countries own the information, and INTERPOL is the temporary keeper of the information for purpose of providing assistance to law enforcement officials who are looking for the subject.
  • While some Red Notice subjects will find themselves on the website, the majority do not. They learn of to the Red Notice when they travel or attempt to travel, apply for immigration benefits, or receive a notice of account closure from their financial institutions.
  • The reason for the non-publication of most notices is that a wanted person is less likely to travel if he is aware of a Red Notice, so the person is more difficult to apprehend. When a Red Notice subject travels, it’s more likely that identification checks at ports of entry to member countries will result in a “hit” in INTERPOL’s databases, thereby alerting authorities to his presence and providing the opportunity for detention.

And that’s why Interpol doesn’t list all the RN subjects on its website.

 

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 people who are subjects of Red Notices are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
  • is not a trier of fact, like a judge or jury
  • 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.

INTERPOL’s job is not to decide if person is guilty – it’s to help locate the person and return her for trial or sentencing IF the process leading up to the Red Notice was fair and legal according to INTERPOL’s rules.

INTERPOL assists in locating and extraditing people wanted for prosecution or to serve sentences in criminal cases. Matters of a civil nature are not matters within the scope of INTERPOL’s organization. However, sometimes cultural differences – and the accompanying legislative differences- create stark distinctions between the types of matters that countries consider to be criminal.

For example, a recent article by the Korean Broadcasting System (“KBS”) highlights the way that South Korea treats defamation as compared to other INTERPOL member countries. In most countries, defamation and libel are civil matters for which someone can be sued to recover financial damages. In South Korea, however, defamation can form the basis of a criminal charge. The article reports:

South Korean police have requested Interpol to nullify the passport of a Korean-Canadian, who has been sued for defamation and fraud in South Korea in connection with a sexual abuse scandal surrounding a late actress.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency revealed on Monday that it also asked for a Red Notice from Interpol to arrest actress and model Yoon Ji-oh.

The 32-year-old has been staying in Canada since April after several lawsuits were filed against her in South Korean courts. She is accused of damaging the legacy of her former colleague Jang Ja-yeon by posing as a key witness to the alleged abuse that Jang faced and profiting from the attention that she earned.

Police involvement in defamation cases in South Korea are not uncommon; this past summer an actress from the country filed a police report alleging “defamation and insult” following a public divorce and media coverage.

This difference in the treatment of defamation will likely become problematic for South Korea. When other member countries do not regard an act as criminal, their laws will not allow them to participate in a person’s extradition for that act. INTERPOL’s rules prevent it from being involved in cases where an act is not ordinarily considered a crime; those rules specifically state that crimes arising from cultural or religious norms of a given member country will not be the subject of INTERPOL involvement. Red Notice requests in these kinds of cases are likely to be denied once INTERPOL becomes aware of the nature of the case.

It will be interesting to see how INTERPOL responds to South Korea’s request.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

One of the most frequent concerns cited by our Red Notice clients is what could happen even if they succeed in their efforts to remove a Red Notice. Most people who challenge Red Notices do so because they have tried to resolve the matter at the country of origin and failed, or because the country of origin has shown that it will not act fairly in the case. Naturally, the client wonders what that country will do if and when INTERPOL removes the Red Notice: will the country accept defeat, or will it change tactics and try again to capture the individual with INTERPOL’s help?

A reader sent in this question on that topic recently:

Is it possible to submit a preventive request at the CCF to prevent/block additional notices (i.e. Diffusion) to be issued in the future for the same case.? Because the people who filled the first red notice, they my might try to send another one (diffusion) without the case being compliant with INTERPOL’s rules since they are aware that the first red notice is being challenged, and eventually removed.

I just discovered that even if the INTERPOL refused to issue a Red Notice in the future, any country can still be able to use INTERPOL’s systems to issue another, less “formal” wanted person alert – called a ‘diffusion’ notice. Without any prior review by INTERPOL. “diffusion” notices can be circulated directly between countries. Despite being notified of the decision not to issue a formal red notice, INTERPOL’s member countries are not required to remove this diffusion from their databases. As a result, my name is likely to appear on police databases across the globe, leaving me at risk to travel.

Unfortunately, there is still some part in this world where money can be used to spoil other people’s reputation.

Many Thanks for your help and support!

When people have concerns that a member country may request another Red Notice, or a diffusion, after the original notice has been removed, there is recourse available. Regardless of the form the data takes, be it in a Red Notice, a diffusion, or any other type of notice, INTERPOL does not want to possess or circulate data that violates its rules. If there is a reasonable chance that a second (or third or fourth) effort by a member country is going to violate INTERPOL’s rules, the individual would be wise to advise INTERPOL of the possibility of additional data being circulated, and request to be advised if that happens. This will keep INTERPOL alert to the misuse of its system and allow the individual to respond if necessary.

Obviously, no system is fail-proof, but open communication is a start to a client’s ongoing freedom from INTERPOL misuse.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

One of the primary purposes of a Red Notice is for INTERPOL’s member countries to assist each other in finding Red Notice subjects and extraditing them back to the countries who seek to prosecute or sentence them.

Sometimes, when authorities find a Red Notice subject in their country and alert the original requesting country to his whereabouts, the original requesting country does not take the steps necessary to extradite him. A RNLJ reader provides an example of this situation in his recent inquiry:

“I was arrested and sat in prison for 22 days because of a red notice… but the requesting country didn’t answer and didn’t send any documents to authorities of the country where I was arrested… After this situation, can I be arrested again in the same country? Is there any rule or term of Interpol’s constitution which blocks or ends the red notice in a case where there is no answer or no proceedings from the requesting country?”

We’ll take the questions in turn.

Can I be arrested again in the same country?

When a country ultimately refuses extradition of a detained Red Notice, it is unlikely that the country would release him, only to detain him again for the same proceedings at a later time, unless there is new information available that would make the extradition proceedings successful.

Is there any rule or term of Interpol’s constitution which blocks or ends the red notice in a case where there is no answer or no proceedings from the requesting country?

If a requesting country fails to supply the necessary information to the country where the Red Notice subject has been found, or the extradition is denied for any other reason, INTERPOL typically places an addendum on the Red Notice explaining that the second country denied extradition. If the grounds for extradition refusal are also grounds for a Red Notice’s removal, INTERPOL will remove the Red Notice. Article 82 of INTERPOL’s Rules on the Processing of Data states that a purpose of a Red Notice is to aid in extradition. If the requesting country is not using the notice for that purpose, INTERPOL may decide to remove it.

Because of the fact that flaws in the underlying charges often cause extradition denial, Red Notice subjects in those cases should examine the notice with their attorneys for possible grounds for for removal.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

A reader sent in this message:

“I have a red notice of Interpol but I didn’t commit any crime… I am trying to find any information possible or anybody who can help me… I already wrote to the CCF, but as you may know… it is pointless…”

Actually, I am happy to report that this reader is incorrect. The CCF routinely evaluates requests to remove Red Notices. More frequently than one might think, the CCF determines that removal is the proper decision. When an applicant provides proof that a Red Notice was issued invalidly, or that its purpose no longer exists, INTERPOL typically removes that notice.

Thus, the reader’s feeling that an application to the CCF for relief “is pointless” tells me that it is likely that the reader’s communication did not meet the CCF’s requirements for an admissible request. The CCF’s posts its admissibility requirements on INTERPOL’s website, here.

In fact, the CCF regularly responds to requests for information and for Red Notice removal. Its rules require that it advises applicants on the admissibility of such requests within 30 days of their receipt. Afterwards, the CCF typically makes decision on removal requests within 4 to 9 months from the date the request is received.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

Warning: cynics should skip this post. It is an unabashed professional letter of admiration. In my many years as a criminal defense attorney, I have encountered a few inspiring advocates who are wholly dedicated to their craft and their clients; this post is about some of them. 

The world of INTERPOL is rather small. While the reach of the organization is global, the number of people who work with and are affected by INTERPOL is quite limited. The number of people and organizations who are involved with efforts to effect INTERPOL reform is even smaller. As a consequence, there are very few people who care about what happens to INTERPOL Red Notice subjects. Without champions, people affected by INTERPOL would be left without hope for reform where it is needed.

In the last decade, numerous non-governmental organizations and governments have either embarked on reform efforts or offered reform suggestions in the hope of convincing INTERPOL to modify various aspects of its law enforcement assistance methods. Most of the time, such efforts are aimed at increasing the organization’s support of individual privacy, due process, free speech, or political rights. I have been fortunate enough to both observe and participate in many of these efforts, along with a handful of talented and dedicated colleagues.

One of the involved parties, Fair Trials International, has emerged as a true champion working for INTERPOL reform. This organization has managed to balance zealous advocacy with credible diplomacy, resulting in an active and engaged dialogue between FT and INTERPOL. Late last month, FT met with INTERPOL’s Secretary General Jürgen Stock to discuss INTERPOL reform. The meeting follows a multitude of previous reform campaign highlights, including critical reports from 2013 and 2015 that prompted significant reforms, including increased transparency, improved communications, more thorough written decisions, and better response times on removal requests.

To its credit, INTERPOL has identified FT as an authoritative and experienced organization, and has wisely given its ear to FT in an effort to stay true to its mandate to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the rule of law in general. While it would be unrealistic to expect a that criminal defense attorney would always agree with INTERPOL’s decisions, this particular attorney has respect for INTERPOL’s willingness to ask, “Where can we improve?” and then really listen to the response that the relentless advocates at FT provided.

So to all those at Fair Trials: thank you for what you do. You may never know the impact of the work that you have done, or the depth of gratitude of the people who have benefited from it. Yours is work that matters.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

Uganda’s acting director of its national liaison agency with INTERPOL has reportedly stated that the Ugandan authority charged with providing INTERPOL with accurate information is not complying with that obligation. Moreover, Mr.  Benson Oyo-Nyeko has requested that citizens themselves take responsibility for correcting the government’s inaction.

New Vision, a leading Ugandan news source, reported Mr. Nyeko’s request that individuals come forth to prove that their charges have been resolved in order for Uganda’s National Central Bureau to correct its records:

Nyeko says once a person is cleared of his offences, CID takes the responsibility to write to Interpol and asks them to clear the person from the system. However, CID does not do it so it’s important for one to personally follow up to clear his or her name. 

The CID is Uganda’s Criminal Investigation Department, and is the agency that requests Red Notices through INTERPOL.

INTERPOL’s rules very clearly require its member countries to update their information in INTERPOL’s databases. This duty includes the obligation to advise INTERPOL to remove people from the Red Notice wanted list once their cases are resolved. While it is disturbing to know that Uganda’s official in charge of compliance is confirming publicly that the CID is not meeting its mandate, it is perhaps even more disturbing to realize that his solution to the crisis- and it is a crisis- is not to require compliance but to shift the burden onto citizens.

This means that INTERPOL is on notice that one of its member countries is actively and willfully out of compliance with its rules:

Article 81: Suspension, withdrawal or cancellation of a notice

(1) The requesting National Central Bureau or international entity can suspend its cooperation request or its alert for a period not exceeding six months. It shall indicate the reasons for this suspension to the General Secretariat, which will then suspend the notice.

(2) The National Central Bureau or international entity requesting a notice shall withdraw its cooperation request or its alert and ask the General Secretariat to cancel the notice immediately: (a) once the purpose of this request or alert has been achieved…

A swift, public, and meaningful response is the only course of action that would allow INTERPOL to maintain its integrity and obligation to its rules.

As always, questions and comments are welcomed.

 

Today’s post is by guest author James Kennedy*

The privacy rights of individuals can be a tricky business, especially when it comes to companies that land themselves in hot water when they inadvertently violate an individual’s privacy rights. But what happens in the case of an international police force, such as INTERPOL? Do the privacy rights remain the same for individuals charged with crimes? Must INTERPOL play the by the guidelines of privacy rights set forth by each individual country  it is associated with, or may  it set its own rules?

Before delving into these questions, one should take into consideration that the vast majority of Red Notices are not displayed on INTERPOL’s website. If you, or a client of yours, happen to be one of the individuals that have a Red Notice and are on INTERPOL’s website, one should start with the basics:

  • What is INTERPOL? INTERPOL is an international police cooperation organization with 194 member country members.
  • What is a Red Notice? A Red Notice is an international alert circulated by Interpol to seek the location or arrest of a person wanted by a judicial jurisdiction or an international tribunal with a view to the individual’s extradition.
  • What kind of information is disseminated on INTERPOL’s website? In a Red Notice, alleged criminals have the following listed: their name, gender, date and place of birth, nationality, physical descriptors (such as height, weight, eye and hair color), languages spoken, and the charges brought against them.

INTERPOL aside, each country has its own criteria of what can and cannot be disseminated in terms of personal data. Bear in mind that most countries balance an individual’s right to privacy against government interests. That being said, if an individual is charged with a crime, the invasion of privacy (such as one’s personal information being disseminated through INTERPOL’s website) may be warranted in the country’s view by the necessity of a compelling state interest (such as the safety and security of the nation).

To exemplify the vast threshold differences that can be between two countries, we might look to the difference between the policies of Denmark and the United States. In Denmark, personal information can only be collected if the individual gives explicit consent, while in the United States, data privacy is not as highly regulated; most regulations are left up to the individual states. Once again, one must be reminded that are person being charged with crime(s) may have their privacy rights compromised with no repercussion, so long as the safety and security of a nation is a sufficiently compelling state interest.

*James Kennedy is a J.D. candidate at Stetson University College of Law