Clients frequently ask how they can have an INTERPOL Red Notice if they are not listed on the Wanted page of INTERPOL’s website.

The answer is that the vast majority of Red Notices are unpublished. INTERPOL’s currently available data, here, tells us that

“[t]here are currently approximately 58,000 valid Red Notices, of which some 7,000 are public.”

With less than ten percent of Red Notices being published, this means that approximately 51,000 people are walking around  the globe not knowing that they are listed as wanted in INTERPOL’s databases.

Obviously, it is more efficient for law enforcement officials to apprehend a subject who is unaware that he is being sought and who therefore travels more freely. Those who are publicly listed as wanted may decide to limit their travel or to seek removal of their Red Notices if they were improperly requested.

As always, comments and questions are welcomed.

INTERPOL’s CCF (the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files) has made its most recent Annual Report available online, here.  In the 2017 Annual Report, which was officially published at the 2018 General Assembly meeting, the CCF covered a variety of topics, from recent statutory changes to the duties of the two chambers.

Among the most interesting topics for an INTERPOL practitioner is the CCF’s treatment of some member countries who have attempted to circumvent the CCF’s rulings on previous cases. In paragraphs 57 and 58 of the report, the Commission recognizes that certain countries do, in fact, violate the spirit and effect of those rulings:

57. Misuse of INTERPOL’s channels: The Commission dealt with cases where the sources of data
have sent a diffusion to INTERPOL members to request the arrest of an individual, whereas a
request for a red notice has previously been refused. It also processed requests which
highlighted the use of the SLTD database where a diffusion or a notice to arrest a person was
considered not to comply with INTERPOL’s rules.
58. These cases raised questions of compliance with INTERPOL’s rules that have been addressed by
the Commission and the General Secretariat. In such cases, the data concerned (if they were
still recorded in INTERPOL’s files when the Commission studied them) are deleted, and the
INTERPOL member countries which received the information are also informed that INTERPOL’s
channels cannot be used in the case concerned.

The good news is that the CCF is acting consistently when it discovers that a member country has improperly utlized a diffusion (which it can circulate itself, without General Secretariat involvement) after a Red Notice has been refused by the General Secretariat.

The bad news is that, in order for these types of violations to be discovered, the unlucky subject of the diffusion often has to discover his or her diffusion status, and this discovery often occurs during travel, and it may lead to detention. Even a brief detention is frightening and disruptive of one’s life.

So the next question is, aside from deleting the diffusion and (again) informing the member country that INTERPOL’s channels cannot be sued in that case, what consequence do these countries face?

As always, comments and questions are welcomed.

One of the primary concerns of people who are Red Notice subjects is what will happen to them if they are detained at a border. A reader recently posed  this variation of that frequent question:

What happens if you do not have a red notice at this moment, but let’s assume you board a flight to another country, and by the time you arrive a red notice has been issued for a crime you are charged with in the country you left?  I assume you will get arrested pending a extradition hearing?
The question is what would happen next as the red notice is issued by a country with no treaty in place with the country to which you have traveled- does that mean you could get released? Or could they still request your extradition?

The question addresses the use of INTERPOL’s tools in relation to the extradition process. The primary reason for a Red Notice being requested is so that a wanted person can be detected upon entry into another country (or contact with another country’s law enforcement officials) and then returned to the requesting country.

However, several variables determine whether a Red Notice will actually result in the subject’s return to the requesting country:

  1. Detention: Each INTERPOL member country decides whether to detain a Red Notice subject. In my experience, some countries do, and some do not- they may instead tell the subject to board the next plane back to the original country.
  2. Removal proceedings vs. extradition: If a member country does detain the subject, it must decide whether to notify the requesting country that the subject has been found. Again, in my experience, some countries are more vigilant about notifying requesting countries that they have detained a Red Notice subject. They may, instead, begin removal (deportation) proceedings, so that the subject is required to leave the territory for whatever destination the subject chooses.
  3. Extradition treaties: if a Red Notice subject appears in an INTERPOL member country that has no extradition treaty with the requesting country, it is unlikely that extradition will occur. However…
  4. Diplomatic relations: there exists the possibility that a Red Notice subject could be transferred for prosecution via diplomatic channels, without the existence of a treaty.

Additionally, a Red Notice can be requested or issued at any time, and it can be acted upon at any time. There is no limitation requiring law enforcement to  check a person’s INTERPOL status only at the border. Any contact with law enforcement officials, whether they be police officers or immigration officials, can lead to a Red Notice “hit” and authorities being alerted to a Red Notice subject’s status with INTERPOL.

As always, questions and comments are welcomed.

 

 

As we await the publication of the CCF’s annual report from last year, it is worth reviewing the speech given by the Commission’s Chairman,  Vitalie Pirlog, at INTERPOL’s 2017 annual meeting as a means of providing continuity in the analysis of the upcoming report.

Mr. Pirlog focused at that time on the changes brought about by the passage of the Statute of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files, including new time limits for the CCF’s decisions, the change from a single chamber to a dual chamber,  and the challenges faced by the Commission in relation to its dealings with National Central Bureaus (“NCBs”).

While the Commission is now tasked with meeting deadlines for its decisions, it also relies on NCBs to respond quickly and succinctly to inquiries related to requests for removal. The speech indicates that while most NCBs respond in an appropriate fashion, some have not.

For example, Mr. Pirlog found it necessary to remind member countries that the organization’s asylum policy was meant to be utilized in accordance with  international law and the protections afforded to people with protected status.  This reminder came at a time when INTERPOL had already implemented its asylum policy, and was developing the policy under President Meng Hongwei, who sought to exclude Red Notice subjects from the policy’s protections if their countries considered them to be terrorists. The danger with this nuance, of course, was that protected persons could still be subject to persecution with INTERPOL’s assistance if the requesting countries improperly categorized them as terrorists.

In that situation, as with others faced by the Commission, the Commission is obliged to weigh individual rights and the need for legal protection against member countries’ expressed need for law enforcement.

It is reasonable to expect that the next CCF Annual report (which I understand will be released this month) would include an update on the NCBs’ collective response to Mr. Pirlog’s request for heightened recognition of legitimate protective status claims.

As always, questions and comments are welcomed.

 

One of the most personal aspects of an INTERPOL case concerns a Red Notice subject’s decison about attorney representation. On that topic, a reader sent in the following question:

Can a termination of legal representation of a lawyer after the submission of the application form to the CCF ( deletion request) and before the first review by the Commission of the file automatically lead to the dismissal of the Application on a procedural basis?

This reader has clearly already hired an attorney who has submitted a request for removal of a Red Notice, and the case is now in the process of being reviewed by the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (“CCF”).

The answer to the question is no. An applicant’s choice of which attorney, or whether to hire an attorney, on an INTERPOL matter should have no effect at all on the CCF’s evaluation of the case.

However, if a change in counsel is made and a new power of attorney is executed for a new attorney to act on the subject’s behalf, the CCF must be advised of that change so that it has the correct contact information on file when it comes time to send out its decision or other correspondence.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

In a recent documentary, “Interpol- who controls the world police?” the German public broadcast service, DW, explores issues affecting INTERPOL’s functioning, independence, and funding.  The documentary addresses a variety of questions that have arisen over the last decade or so as INTERPOL has wrestled with the challenge of assisting its member countries with the enforcement of laws while also attempting to maintain neutrality with respect to its treatment of its member countries.

Primary to the focus of the documentary is the issue of funding. INTERPOL is an international organization that historically been funded by its member countries on a relatively sliding scale: the more wealthy countries contribute more financial resources, and the less wealthy countries contribute less. However, even with some of the wealthiest countries in the world paying their share, INTERPOL’s budget is remarkably low considering the tasks for which it is responsible. After the 9/11 attack on the twin towers, as the organization sought to increase its role in the world stage of policing, it sought other funding options. The result was both beneficial and harmful to INTERPOL’s mission and reputation. In recent years, changes in both policy and practice have followed.

This is the first of a four-part series that examines DW’s documentary against the backdrop of INTERPOL’s past and current activities.

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For today, we’ll start with a very basic but important distinction: INTERPOL is not, as the documentary implies in its title, a police force meant to police the world. It is a data-sharing organization with whom its member countries agree to cooperate. The primary purpose of the organization is to assist its member countries with locating wanted individuals for prosecution or sentencing in criminal cases by circulating information about the wanted person’s location. Another, growing goal of INTERPOL is to assist its member countries’ police forces with education, prevention, and training. However, as illustrated in the documentary, INTERPOL has the capacity to take on a semi-private police force characteristic if it agrees at a policy level to enforce certain laws, to accept funding from private entities, and to allow its actions to be influenced by private interests.

In this series, we will examine each of these issues against the backdrop of INTERPOL’s past and in anticipation of its future.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

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One of the most frequent questions people have about INTERPOL Red Notices is how a Red Notice can be issued in a case where the prosecution was politically motivated. The question is a valid one, particularly given INTERPOL’s prohibition of involvement in political cases. INTERPOL specifies in one of its fact sheets, here, that:

 

The General Secretariat can only publish a notice that adheres to all the proper legal
conditions. For example, a notice will not be published if it violates INTERPOL’s Constitution, which forbids the Organization from undertaking activities of a political, military, religious
or racial character.

 

This statement is not entirely accurate, only because the General Secretariat does not always know the true nature of the cases behind the Red Notice requests that it receives from its member countries.

Despite the prohibition against political cases, practitioners are routinely approached by individuals who are being politically prosecuted for criminal offenses, and listed with INTERPOL as Red Notice subjects. The reality is that politically motivated Red Notices are, in fact, published.

Unless a Red Notice subject is particularly well-known, it is quite possible for the underlying political nature of the Red Notice to be unknown to INTERPOL. Only when the subject discover the Red Notice and works with his/her attorneys to inform INTERPOL about the true nature of the case does INTERPOL learn that it should not be involved in the matter.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

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We left off in the last post with a discussion about why a Request Chamber comprised entirely of lawyers makes a difference in the nature and quality of decisions being issued by the CCF.

In March of 2017, INTERPOL adopted a new Statute of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files. As with many new regulations, the effect of this one took some time to become realized. That effect is now apparent, and is partially due to the new make up of the Commission.

Previously, the Commission‘s membership did include professionals with legal backgrounds, but they were not all attorneys. Now, however, this is the required background for the individuals who will decide the cases:

Article 8, Statute of the CCF:

The Request Chamber comprises the following:

(4) The Requests Chamber shall consist of five members:
(a) A lawyer with data-protection expertise;
(b) A lawyer with recognized international experience in police matters, in particular international police cooperation;
(c) A lawyer with international criminal law expertise;
(d) A lawyer with human rights expertise;
(e) A lawyer who holds or has held a senior judicial or prosecutorial position, preferably with experience in international judicial cooperation.

That’s a lot of lawyers, and that’s a lot of relevant legal experience. This type of experience makes a difference in the Commission’s analysis of cases and arguments. Since this change in the composition of the Commission’s decision-making body, we have seen a change also in the quality, depth, and detail of the decisions being issued by the Commission.

The advantage to this new approach is not only that the Commission is providing more transparency and legitimacy to its process. The changes also mean that the Commission is allowing for a higher quality of requests: when applicants know how the Commission approaches its cases, applicants and their attorneys are able to tailor their requests in a manner that is best suited for the Commission’s analysis.

RNLJ has frequently included criticism of INTERPOL and has advocated for reform where it has been needed, and we will continue to do so. But for now, credit has to be given where credit is due. INTERPOL has gotten this right.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

I recently received a decision from the CCF (Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files), and I absolutely loved it. It was by far the best decision I have ever received from the CCF- and not just because we succeeded in our request to remove a client’s Red Notice, although of course that was the best part.

The decision was outstanding for another reason: it provided a thorough and detailed analysis of the Commission’s approach to the case. It provided a basis for understanding the Commission’s view of the case, and it gave the reader insight about how the Commission weighed the evidence and arguments that we had submitted, particularly against the political landscape of the country that requested the Red Notice.

Since the CCF does not publish its decisions, we can only glean information and guidance from its decisions on an anecdotal basis, as the decisions become available to us through our own work or the work of others. In that manner, I’ve noticed over the last 9 to 12 months that the CCF’s decisions are increasingly detailed, more thorough, and offer more transparency in terms of providing insight as to the Commission’s process and reasoning.

This change may be rooted in a variety of reasons, but the one that’s most apparent is this: the Commission’s decisions on requests for removal are now made by the Request Chamber, which was newly created in 2017 by the Statute of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files. The members of the Request Chamber are all lawyers, and the difference that makes is significant.

Certainly, the CCF has always had attorneys on its staff who handle much of the CCF’s work when it is not in session, and who work in overdrive when it is in session. However, the added influence of having attorneys in decision-making roles who preside over cases in session cannot be overlooked, and is becoming more apparent with time.

In the next post: who are the lawyers that make up the Request Chamber, and why it matters.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

It’s happened again. Russian authorities’s misuse of INTERPOL’s databases has resulted in further persecution of William Browder. As reported here, Russian authorities have sought for many years to extradite Browder on clearly politically motivated charges.

While INTERPOL has correctly refused to allow Russian requests for Red Notices to stay in effect for Browder, Russia has managed to circumvent the Red Notice requirements by issuing a diffusion- comparable to a “BOLO,” or Be on the Lookout- for Browder.  The effect of the diffusion is that INTERPOL member countries know that an individual is either wanted or wanted for monitoring, and the individual may be subject to questioning and detention.

In this case, even though INTERPOL refused involvement with the Browder case, once the diffusion was circulated to INTERPOL’s member countries, the information entered the domestic databases for the individual countries, and INTERPOL lost control over whether the data was updated by those countries or not.

INTERPOL has known for years that this type of loss of control over data is possible and does occur. It has also known that Russia routinely requests improperly based notices and diffusions. At some point, perhaps sooner rather than later, it will be appropriate that INTERPOL be held directly responsible for the very predictable consequences of Russia’s abuse of INTERPOL’s databases.

If INTERPOL desires to maintain a reputation as a law enforcement organization with any kind of integrity or gravitas, it must defend itself against this abuse now, by limiting Russian access to its databases and by requiring proof from its member countries that they have updated their domestic databases.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.