The first post in this series discussed Turkey’s recent detention of 56 individuals being sought with Red Notices. Today’s post will describe Turkey’s turbulent history with INTERPOL and how it affects the country’s credibility today. 

Turkey’s current and recent INTERPOL abuse

Although Turkey has been caught seeking improper INTERPOL Red Notices several times, its abuse of the organization continues.

For example, Even after reported efforts to prevent the abuse of INTERPOL’s Red Notices, Turkish authorities repotedly continue to target INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Document(SLTD) system. Authorities abuse this system by recording the passports of dissidents as lost, stolen, revoked, or invalid, in an attempt to have those people deported to Turkey when they travel. When an individual is improperly targeted using this system, they are stopped by a country’s border control, having been flagged as using a stolen passport. They may be detained while police checks, interviews, and searches are conducted, and ultimately the process of deportation or extradition may be initiated. 

As cited in a 2019 study requested by the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) provided data regarding Turkey’s use and abuse of INTERPOL’s Red Notice system. That data included a 2017 report in which the Stockholm Centre for Freedom concluded that ‘Turkey under autocratic leader Erdoğan’s rule must be recognized as a country that uses INTERPOL in bad faith in order to advance political persecution and hunt down government critics and opponents’. The report highlighted the abuse of INTERPOL’s SLTD system, stating that ‘this practice started in 2014 and gained pace in 2015 and 2016 when the NCB for Turkey allegedly reported passports that were canceled as stolen or lost on INTERPOL’s SLTD.

Turkey’s abusive history

The Red Notice Law Journal(RNLJ) has been monitoring and reporting on Turkey’s INTERPOL abuse for years. In 2017, RNLJ discussed a case wherein a man who, if extradited to Turkey, faced over 22 years in prison for insulting the then-president of the country. More recently in 2021, RNLJ discussed the unlawful politically motivated Red Notices that existed despite the country’s hosting of the General Assembly that year. 

Turkey’s misuse of INTERPOL makes it necessary to scrutinize each action it takes involving the organization. To continue a relationship with Turkey and maintain its own integrity as a law enforcement support organization, INTERPOL would do well to apply certain restrictions so the country no longer involves INTERPOL in its abusive practices.

As discussed in an Open Letter addressed to INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock, if INTERPOL wishes to take action against abuse, the organization may integrate the following:

  • Adopt measures to prevent abuse of its SLTD database and immediately delete all non-compliant data on the SLTD database. 
  • Take steps to hold the NCBs accountable for their misapplication of INTERPOL rules and regulations
  • Implement a similar review mechanism to that of INTERPOL Notices for the SLTD database 
  •  Suspend Turkey from using INTERPOL databases 
  • Suspend Turkey from the use of the SLTD database until further checks can be put in place

The failure or refusal to demand a higher level of accountability from abusive member countries will result in the erosion of confidence in INTERPOL as a transparent, accountable, lawful organization.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

The Minister of the Interior of Turkey, Ali Yerlikaya, has reported the detention of 56 Red Notice subjects with crimes ranging from drug dealing and money laundering to murder, counterfeiting, and assault. These subjects are allegedly wanted in 18 countries including the United States, Germany, India, Russia, and several former Soviet republics, as well as Israel and Palestine. 

As stated by The Guardian Nigeria, Yerlikaya’s office did not disclose names, noting only that the suspects were rounded up in coordinated security sweeps across 11 provinces, including Istanbul.

Mr. Yerlikaya wrote on X,  

“I congratulate our heroic police officers who carried out the operation at dawn this morning. Our nation’s prayers are with you. Our state’s breath is always on the necks of terrorists and their collaborators, organized crime organizations, poison dealers and criminal centers,”

What this means for INTERPOL and Red Notice subjects

Although the detention of 56 actual criminals would be an admiral feat, Turkey’s history of INTERPOL abuse gives cause for concern regarding the arrests. For example, in an article posted in July of 2023 by Ali Yildiz and Ben Keith, Turkey’s continued abuse is detailed. The article discusses Turkey’s abuse of INTERPOL’s tools at the hands of its current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The country’s government has reportedly manipulated INTERPOL’s tools to achieve extradition of individuals the government wishes to detain for oppressive or otherwise illegal purposes. These motivations are exemplified in the following cases among others discussed in a study requested by the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights:

  • Halis Aydogan, a member of the Marxist Leninist Communist Party in Turkey, was charged in Turkey with ‘attempting to change the constitutional order’ and throwing ‘molotov cocktails’ at the Direction of Taxes in 1996. Aydogan was reportedly forced to sign all accusatory statements under torture before he escaped to France and was granted political asylum. Following a Red Notice issued at the request of Turkey, Aydogan was detained in Georgia in 2015 and subsequently released. It is believed the Red Notice remains in place.
  • Murcat Acar, a Turkish national, was transferred to Turkish authorities by Bahraini police following the issuance of a Red Notice by Turkey. Before his first appearance in a Turkish court in 2016, Acar was allegedly tortured and suffered ill-treatment. Subsequently, Acar petitioned the Turkish Constitutional Court, alleging the Turkish government violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • Hamza Yalçın was arrested in 1979 on terror charges in Turkey and escaped from prison after six months, seeking asylum in Sweden. After returning to Turkey in 1990 Yalçın was again indicted on terror charges and spent three years in prison. In 1994 Yalçın left Turkey and gained Swedish citizenship. Yalçın was indicted on charges of insulting Turkish President Erdoğan in April 2017. Following a Red Notice issued by Turkey, Yalçın was detained in Barcelona in 2017. After criticism of the arrest, including from a Swedish member of the European Parliament and from The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Yalçın was released in October 2017 and returned to Sweden.

Turkey’s abuse of INTERPOL’s tools has been addressed in this blog previously as well. The next post in this series will discuss how Turkey’s history of INTERPOL abuse affects its reliability today. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

The last post in this series explored the pattern of erectile dysfunction drugs being the most seized substance by INTERPOL along with the risks of corruption within the operation. Today’s post will explore the ways in which these drugs were sold to unsuspecting consumers. 

Operational Results:

INTERPOL’s Operation Pangea yielded remarkable results, including 72 arrests, 325 new investigations, the seizure of illicit drugs worth over 7 million USD, and the shutting down of over 1,300 websites. This level of operational results raises a critical question: how were these illicit drugs finding their way to consumers?

Exploitation of Swiss Websites: 

A significant number of illicit drugs were discovered in the process of INTERPOL’s cooperation with domestic law enforcement to shut down over 1,300 websites.  Additionally, Swissmedic, which took part in the operation, stated that during this year’s operation, it focused on how criminals used websites and social media posts to sell their products. It was reported that illegal dealers were misusing legal Swiss websites that have no connection with medicinal products. They allegedly hacked the uninvolved websites and added pages with sales options for falsified medicinal products and doping agents. By doing so, the criminals aimed to create the impression of being an official Swiss supplier. 

The significant findings of Operation Pangea showcase the positive collaborations between countries throughout the world. As crime continues to extend into the digital world, we should expect to see more of this type of collaboration.

Effect on Red Notice Subjects

Switzerland is generally considered a very trustworthy country, maintaining a rank of 7 on the corruption scale. Although there is always room for corruption, this indicated that arrests made in Switzerland should be reliable and not a country INTERPOL needs to monitor so closely. Generally speaking, a Red Notice subject with a case originating in Switzerland may find it more difficult to establish violations of INTERPOL’s rules than subjects with cases originating in other countries with a record of due process and human rights violations.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

The last post in this series described INTERPOL’s Operation Pangea and how law enforcement from varying countries use INTERPOL’s tools to share information and do cross-border investigations.  Today’s post will discuss the operation’s results along with risk of corruption within the operation. 

Operational Results

INTERPOL’s findings during this operation include the following: 

  • 72 arrests worldwide
  • USD 7 million in potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals seized 
  • 325 new investigations opened 
  • The closure of more than 1,300 criminal websites

Global Impact: 

  • Mozambique: authorities seized 9,000 bottles of suspected counterfeit cough syrups after discovering contradictions between product labels and official documents.
  •  Australia: authorities seized some 11,000 COVID-19 irregular test kits, demonstrating continued criminal exploitation of the pandemic.
  • Qatar: customs officers seized 2,500 prescription painkillers hidden in cereal boxes, from a passenger flying in from India.
  • Peru and Ecuador: Some 13,000 counterfeit and/or expired pain medicines were confiscated during searches at a bus depot.

Effect on Red Notice Subjects

Red Notice subjects could be deeply affected by the corrupt member countries involved in Operation Pangea. As seen in the bulleted list above, notable contributors to this operation include Mozambique, Australia, Qatar, Peru, and Ecuador. Mozambique maintains a rank of 26 on the corruption scale, Australia maintains a 13, Qatar maintains 40, and Peru and Ecuador maintain 101. While there is always risk of officials engaging in illegal action, certain countries involved in this operation come with increased risk. 

The risk of corruption is exemplified in the reported 30% of public servants having paid a bribe in Peru in the last 12 months.  Additionally, Peru’s current president’s career has been described as, “A dark mess of severe human rights violations,” Peru serves as an example of a corrupt country that poses a danger to Red Notice subjects, as the authorities are more willing to participate in illegal activities. 

The trend of Erectile Dysfunction Medications: INTERPOL’s role in the sex industry

Despite the range of substances confiscated during Operation Pangea, INTERPOL has confirmed that erectile dysfunction medications continue to be the most seized drug globally, accounting for 22 percent of seizures during the operation. Psychotherapeutic agents such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicines, and stimulants were a close second at 19 percent, followed by sex hormones and gastrointestinal medicines at 12 percent respectively.

Although this statistic may be surprising, it is not new for INTERPOL. As of 2019, INTERPOL stated, “The highest number of seizures under Pangea were of fake erectile dysfunction medicines.” and again in 2022 INTERPOL wrote, “Counterfeit or unauthorized erectile dysfunction medicines comprised roughly 40 percent of all products seized.” 

As reported in a Forbes article, “Interpol did not immediately respond to a request from Forbes as to why erectile dysfunction drugs make up the largest seizure in its operations. According to a study from Tulane University School of Medicine, one potential reason for the booming market for counterfeit erectile dysfunction drugs has to do with patients who are too embarrassed to seek treatment, or who are looking for cheaper alternatives to drugs such as Viagra.”

The next and final installment in this series will delve into the deceptive tactics used to lure consumers into purchasing illicit substances.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Operation Pangea XVI

INTERPOL’s Operation Pangea is an annual week-long operation which relies on the efforts of police, customs, regulatory bodies, and private sector companies to to dismantle the illegal networks that contribute to the sale of illegal and counterfeit drugs. This year’s operation spanned from October 3 to 10, taking place throughout 89 of INTERPOL’s member countries, allowing law enforcement to target counterfeit drugs that had been taken out of legal supply chains to be sold without regulation. 

INTERPOL’s Operation Pangea XVI led to significant outcomes, including 72 arrests, 325 new investigations, the seizure of illicit drugs worth over 7 million USD, and the shutting down of over 1,300 websites. 

INTERPOL’s Methods of Communication

As the orchestrator of Operation Pangea, INTERPOL likely utilized its global communications system, I-24/7 to facilitate the exchange of information across participating countries. I-24/7 is the network that allows law enforcement across INTERPOL’s member countries to communicate effectively across the world. This network was likely a key aspect of the operation, ensuring information was shared promptly, allowing for swift and targeted action against criminal networks. 

Effect on Red Notice Subjects

When considering INTERPOL’s Operation Pangea, many Red Notice subjects (or potential Red Notice subjects) are unaware of how the operation affects them. Red Notice subjects, some of whom are actually law-abiding citizens, are most commonly found through international travel, immigration proceedings requiring background checks, and contact with domestic law enforcement officials. Operations like this one create risk as they bring an influx of law enforcement with the power to detain Red Notice subjects to INTERPOL member countries. Additionally, INTERPOL has 196 member countries, and with such a massive operation involving 89 of those countries, the inevitable presence of corrupt countries brings heightened risk to Red Notice subjects.

The next posts in this series will delve into the specific findings of the operation, and INTERPOL’s findings on how the illicit drugs were being sold.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

INTERPOL has announced that it has begun moving towards a global data-sharing model to be used by law enforcement. This new model was announced at the 7th INTERPOL Dialogue on an Effective Multilateral Policing Architecture against Global Threats, hosted by the Gulf Cooperation Council-POL with the support of the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Interior.

The new model aims to reduce the amount of data-sharing systems to create one undivided system, improve coordination between law enforcement agencies, and increase efficiency.

While the concept of this new system is promising, the vast expanse of conflicting data protection laws in different countries will make a universal data-sharing system very difficult to maintain without issue. For example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which governs data protection in the countries within the European Union, contains much stricter data protection laws than the United States, which has varying data protection laws governing different subject matter at both the federal and state levels.

If the United States were to upload information onto the new data-sharing model that does not comply with the data protection laws of another country, with more protective data processing regulations, that may lead to conflict. Additionally, the new data sharing may cause compliance issues between countries. A country in the EU would not be able to comply, for instance, if the United States made a request that was in violation of the GDPR. 

These are just a few simple examples of how the grey areas of data protection laws can cause difficulties. Especially when considering that INTERPOL’s 196 member countries each has its own view on data protection, INTERPOL must ensure the system complies with the strictest data protection rules, thus raising the bar for less regulated countries.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

As the previous post in this series addressed the systems in place to prevent INTERPOL abuse and Secretary General  Jürgen Stock’s recent comments on that topic, today’s post will focus on what is needed for these reforms to be effective. 

After INTERPOL’s Secretary General Jürgen Stock’s reform efforts had been integrated, INTERPOL still had to review the notices it amassed over the years. As of 2019, there were still around 50,000 active Red Notices that had not been reviewed and may have resulted in wrongful arrests, according to the New York Times. While statistics show that only about five percent of these outstanding Red Notices could be a result of abuse of the system, these alerts can be extremely damaging and dangerous if the individual were to be prosecuted.

The system has seen structural reforms, however, Red Notices sent out by repressive governments have continued to slip through the cracks, calling significant attention from the media. For example, in 2021, Idris Hasan, a Uyghur activist, was arrested in Morocco following a Red Notice requested by China. After the arrest, INTERPOL classified the Red Notice as “non-compliant,” however, Mr. Hasan’s arrest exemplifies the dangers posed to persecuted minority groups by countries prone to Red Notice abuse.

Criteria for effective reform

In order for reform efforts to be effective, INTERPOL must:

  • Take constant and renewed stock of the current sources of abuse,
  • Document the use of varying types of data and tools to perpetrate that abuse, and finally,
  • Publicly and reliably sanction those member countries that violate their obligation to use INTERPOL’s tools legally and with due observance of recognized human rights.

Bad actors always eventually find their way around obstacles, and Red Notices are no exception. In this practice, we have seen a trend toward the use of diffusions, rather than Red Notices, after Red Notices began to be scrutinized more closely. This single example indicates that reform must remain ongoing, and that success is never final but requires vigilance.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

*Thanks to guest author, Ingrid Matteini, B.S. candidate 2025, Georgetown University

INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock recently addressed what he referred to as misinformation regarding the organization in the media and critics of the Red Notice system who claim it has become a tool of repressive states. 

In an op-ed published in Euronews, Mr. Stock reiterated that Red Notices are a key tool for cooperation among countries to locate and arrest an individual who has committed a crime. This is obviously true; it is also true that this tool provides an opportunity for abuse by ill-intentioned actors and that the need for reform will likely remain constant.

INTERPOL Reform Efforts

In 2016, two years into his new role as INTERPOL’s Secretary General, Jürgen Stock, along with the General Assembly and the Executive Committee, made a series of reforms to address accountability issues after a tumultuous decade and a half that resulted in numerous arrests in cases that critics say were politically motivated.

The organization added the Notices and Diffusions Task Force (NDTF), composed of lawyers, police officers, and operations specialists, to pre-review Red Notices and carry out a quality and legal compliance review prior to a notice’s authorization. Mr. Stock also tightened records requirements, added a data protection officer, and strengthened the internal review commission. 

In the opinion piece referenced previously, Mr. Stock aimed to remind readers that critics often claim certain countries abuse INTERPOL for political reasons, but he does not believe this to be true. “Although Interpol is a technical policing organisation, we are not blind to geopolitical realities. Red Notices are not issued in an information vacuum,” Mr. Stock wrote in his op-ed.

For example, in October 2022, INTERPOL rejected India’s second request to issue a Red Notice against Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, founder of Sikhs for Justice, a U.S.-based group seeking a separate homeland for Sikhs. INTERPOL rejected the alert on terror charges stating Punnun’s activities have a “clear political dimension,” according to the Wire. 

Mr. Stock also states that in 2021, 483 out of 23,716 alerts were refused because they were believed to be political by nature, alluding to INTERPOL’s increased accountability and transparency, demonstrating the effectiveness of Mr. Stock’s reforms. 

The next post will further address reform efforts and how effective they may be for INTERPOL as well as individuals. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

*Thanks to guest author, Ingrid Matteini, B.S. candidate 2025, Georgetown University

INTERPOL’s Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF’s) third session of the year occurred from October 16th to the 20th. As no further sessions are publicly scheduled for this year, this will likely be the last session during which the CCF will review INTERPOL notice subjects’ requests for notice removal and access to information.  

The CCF’s Processing of Requests

When reviewing requests, the CCF ‘s Secretariat examines and determines the admissibility of each request it receives. The CCF then performs a detailed assessment of the request according to the Organization’s rules. This will often involve gathering more information from the applicant, the source of information, and may include open-source research. A summary of the case is then submitted to the Commission during one of its sessions for discussion and a decision. 

As the CCF has four months to render a decision on an access request, and nine months to decide on a correction/deletion request, any requests not addressed in the upcoming session will likely be discussed in January. Although the CCF does not always notify an individual that their request will be discussed at the next session, the CCF’s general procedure includes communicating the results of a processed request, so if no results are received, it can be assumed that the request will be discussed at the next session. 

When its decision becomes final, the CCF notifies an applicant within one month. The CCF recommends applicants should wait at least three months after the date of the session that examined the request before inquiring about the outcome of the request.

What to expect from the CCF

Each year, the CCF releases its annual activities report, which reviews the activities of the prior year’s supervisory and advisory chambers as well as the requests chamber. If the CCF’s reports from 2021 as well as 2019-2020(combined report due to COVID-19) are indicators of what to expect this year, we await over 1,500 finalized CCF requests, a majority of them being complaints access requests. 

Once the CCF’s annual report is released, RNLJ will be able to compare this year’s report with those of years past.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.