The previous posts in this series addressed the need for the CCF to schedule sessions proportionally to the number of requests for relief it receives each year. RNLJ advocates that it is not feasible to continue scheduling 3-4 sessions every year if the number of requests the CCF receives continues to increase.

Recalling the statistics according to the CCF’s annual activity reports, the CCF received 643 new requests in 2015, and 1,417 in 2021, but convened only four times in both years. This means that INTERPOL’s CCF held the same number of sessions despite receiving over twice as many requests.

Time allotted for each case

It is important to note the actual time allotted for the CCF to review each request. If each of the four sessions held in 2021 was four days long, and the CCF members convened for 8 hours per day, members would have had to reach decisions on over 11 cases each hour to review all 1,417. That is about 5 minutes allotted to each request sent in. There is no denying that 5 minutes is far too little time to truly consider a case, even if it has been well-reviewed by the CCF’s capable full-time staff.  

Solutions 

The Commission could remedy this problem by:

  • Increasing the number of sessions so they are scheduled proportionally to the number of requests to be considered.
  • Holding remote “mini-sessions:” All Commission members are from different countries and have full-time positions elsewhere. Holding shorter sessions remotely would allow members to remain in their countries while addressing simpler cases, leaving more complex matters to be addressed in Lyon during formal in-person meetings.
  • Recruiting additional members to the Commission, and divide the requests into categories to ensure uniformity in analysis and approach. 

Any combination of these solutions could reduce the workload and increase the efficiency of the Commission.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Our last post discussed the CCF’s scheduled sessions for 2024 and how more time may be necessary for the CCF to issue timely responses and make timely decisions. Today’s post will discuss INTERPOL’s previous reform efforts within the Commission and ways in which those efforts should continue. 

Reform Within the CCF

Although sometimes it may seem INTERPOL’s rules remain at a standstill, the organization is moving in the right direction. In 2017, the Commission adopted new rules governing the CCF. These rules included:

  •  A 9-month time limit for the CCF to respond to requests
  • The creation of the Commission’s two chambers: the Supervisory and Advisory Chamber, and the Request Chamber
  • The requirement of the Commission to “endeavor to make its decisions, opinions, recommendations, and reports public in all working languages of the Organization.”

These reforms were enacted in part due to requests made by INTERPOL practitioners and human rights organizations. As stated in the RNLJ series discussing the new rules at the time, Fair Trials International provided input that was instrumental in advocating for INTERPOL reform, and many of its recommendations made their way into the new statute.

These past INTERPOL reforms prove that individuals and organizations exposing the flaws of institutions like INTERPOL help an immeasurable amount of people. Those who are affected by the inadequacies of INTERPOL and organizations like it rely on people with the influence to bring about positive change. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

INTERPOL’s Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files(CCF) has finished its second session of the year, and the remaining dates of its sessions in 2024 are posted on its website. The remaining sessions are listed on INTERPOL’s website as follows:

  • 129th session: Summer 2024 (date unspecified)
  • 130th session: Autumn 2024 (date unspecified)

Only three sessions per year are required of the Commission members to discuss and decide upon all requests the CCF receives. With four sessions planned in 2024 instead of the usual three, the CCF will be more productive as members will have more time to consider each request and take on more cases. 

More time for the CCF

While the increase in CCF sessions this year should be beneficial, it would be productive for the Commission to routinely schedule more sessions so that all requests will be processed and decided in a timely manner.

There currently does not appear to be an adjustment of the number of sessions held to correspond to the workload that the Commission faces. For example, according to the CCF’s annual activity reports, the CCF received 643 new requests in 2015, and 1,417 in 2021, but convened only four times in both years. This means that INTERPOL’s CCF held the same number of sessions despite receiving over twice as many requests. 

If the Commission adjusted its scheduled meetings to more closely reflect the number of requests it had to review, using the years 2015 and 2021 as examples, the CCF would have held 8-9 sessions in 2021 to review new requests.

Effect of work overload: delayed responses to Applicants

It is our observation that the CCF’s Requests Chamber has recently not complied with its own rules regarding timely responses. Given the CCF’s history of punctual responses since the inception of deadlines over 6 years ago, it is reasonable to assume that this lack of compliance is due to an unmanageably high workload.

Our next post will examine what INTERPOL has done to improve the CCF’s efficiency, and how it can advance even further.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Miami, Florida, U.S.A.- Estlund Law has successfully obtained the removal of three Red Notices for our client, Arturo Escobar. Mr. Escobar was accused of bribery, organized crime, and money laundering in Ecuador and Panama. 

Corruption in Ecuador causes politically motivated prosecutions

Mr. Escobar’s case arose from a political dispute between two of Ecuador’s former presidents. After a journalist published a series of articles claiming to have uncovered corruption at the highest levels of government about Petroecuador, the country’s national oil company, then-President Rafael Correa faced pressure to show that he did not tolerate corruption. He began a politically motivated prosecution to address the scandal in 2016. While there appeared to have been credible bribery allegations against some individuals, he used the prosecution to insist that other, specific individuals be prosecuted, even where there was evidence of their innocence. There was also evidence that he shielded his allies from prosecution and steered the prosecution away from himself. As a result of the biased investigation and prosecution, many individuals, including Mr. Escobar, were prosecuted for alleged bribery or conspiracy to commit bribery. 

Ecuadorian officials tried Mr. Escobar in his absence. He never received the requested evidence that could have aided in his defense in his trial. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Escobar was convicted despite the lack of due process and the absence of evidence implicating him. 

Results

Estlund Law has significant experience removing politically motivated Red Notices. Ms. Estlund used that expertise to build the case for removing Mr. Escobar’s three outstanding notices, focusing on the lack of evidence provided by the prosecution, the political motivation behind the case, and the human rights violations suffered by Mr. Escobar and others in the case. 

After reviewing the firm’s removal request, INTERPOL’s Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF) found all three Red Notices in Mr. Escobar’s name uncompliant with INTERPOL’s rules. The organization recognized that although criminal elements were present in this case, the predominant factor was political motivation. 

Mr. Escobar said after the case was resolved, “We can’t express with words how grateful and joyful we feel with this resolution. We want to thank you and all your team for your amazing work, kindness, and understanding.”

Ms. Estlund notes that this case was specifically characterized by the dedication of Mr. Escobar’s family, particularly his wife, to ensure that the matter was fully and fairly resolved so their family could resume a normal, productive life.

Our last two posts in this series discussed how a Red Notice can have a residual effect on an individual. Those posts detailed the effects on a person’s financial abilities and lasting inaccurate data within a government’s databases. Today’s post will detail the lasting damages a Red Notice has on an individual’s online reputation. 

In an increasingly digital world, individuals often become acquainted with each other online before even being introduced in person. This being the case, an individual’s online presence has become a vital part of their reputation. 

Once INTERPOL’s CCF has determined that an individual’s case should be removed from INTERPOL’s databases, the notice is removed and that individual should then be free of Red Notice-related complications. When considering the digital world though, where nothing can truly be erased, the consequences of a Red Notice could potentially follow a person forever. 

To combat this, previous subjects of Red Notices sometimes address the problem by:

  • directly contacting the sources of the online information to request corrective action;
  • systematically uploading the new, positive or neutral information about themselves online in order to minimize the dominance of the negative information, or
  • engaging a reputation management company for this task.  

All approaches are designed to ensure the internet reflects updated information regarding a person and suppress or minimize negative or false search results.

These posts have highlighted the reputational risks of Red Notices, detailing the remaining difficulties in banking, government data, and online reputation.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Our last post discussed the financial difficulties that may remain following Red Notice removal. Today’s post will similarly detail the residual effect of Red Notices in government and police databases. 

Once INTERPOL’s CCF has determined that an individual’s case is either not truly criminal, politically motivated, or without sufficient legal information to sustain a Red Notice, that individual should be free of Red Notice-related complications. Although INTERPOL notifies its member countries once a Red Notice is removed, there are instances in which outdated information remains in domestic government databases. 

When there is outdated Red Notice information on an individual, that person may face the same barriers they did as a Red Notice subject. Incorrect information on an individual could lead them to be detained when trying to travel or interact with law enforcement, denied financial services as detailed in the previous post, or to suffer the tarnishment of their reputation. Outdated government data can include showing a case is open when it is not, showing an existing Red Notice after it has been removed, or other damaging inaccuracies. 

If an individual is experiencing the difficulties of a Red Notice subject after the removal of a Red Notice, that individual should contact their lawyer to decide the best course of action. This may  involve notifying the CCF to request that it remind the member country holding incorrect data to modify or delete it. It may also involve contacting that country directly for the same purpose, or providing documentation to the office or agency that has the outdated information.

Our next post will detail the lasting damages a Red Notice can have on an individual’s online reputation.  

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Once the hard part of dealing with INTERPOL is over, and an individual’s Red Notice is removed, many difficulties that come with a Red Notice become obsolete. Though this is true, occasionally there are remaining challenges, particularly if the notice had to do with a criminal allegation of a financial crime. 

After INTERPOL deletes a Red Notice, whether due to it being politically motivated or otherwise improperly requested, INTERPOL’s member countries are notified of the deletion. This should be reflected in each country’s records, but this is not always the case. Sometimes domestic records are not updated properly, leading to falsehoods regarding previous Red Notice subjects. Such inaccurate information can cause problems in other areas as well.

For example, banks and financial intitutions utilize a variety of companies that provide personal data lists of those who are politically exposed, wanted for financial crimes, or listed by governmental agencies as prohibited business partners. If a country holds outdated information on a previous Red Notice subject, financial agencies such as those mentioned below are more likely to treat the individual as an active Red Notice subject.

As stated in a previous post detailing this topic, the companies that provide personal data lists, such as World-Check, LexisNexis, Bureau Van Dijk, and Dow Jones may obtain their data from media sources without independently checking the accuracy of the source’s reporting. Estlund Law had a client whose data was reported by such a company as having an open criminal case years after the case was completely dropped by the authorities. This client’s data was listed and circulated to every company that subscribes to this service, and the data was incorrect and outdated. Fortunately, these cases are rare, but they do occur.

Once these companies are made aware of their inaccuracies they should either remove or modify the information to be correct. 

Our next post will detail the residual effects of Red Notices in terms of government and police databases. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Miami, Florida, U.S.A.- Estlund Law client Dr. Faezeh Faghihi has spent her life in the service of others as a physician in her native Iran and in the United States, her adopted home country. Trained as a gynecologist, she practiced as a physician while in Iran, delivering hundreds of babies. She continued working in the medical field after moving to the United States, where she opened a gene sequencing laboratory called Express Gene. At Express Gene, she and her family members, also trained physicians, screened thousands of genetic samples to determine whether patients had COVID-19 or other conditions or illnesses discernible through DNA analysis.

As the Iranian population has a high occurrence of genetic variations, the Faghihi family often provided humanitarian and medical aid to the medical community in Iran, where access to genetic sequencing is less available. They sought licenses where required by OFAC. 

The U.S. government charged Dr. Faghihi and her co-defendant family members with conspiring to illegally export medical equipment to Iran, exporting that equipment, smuggling DNA samples into the United States, and illegally transferring funds from Iran to the United States.

The exportation of genetic sequencing machines to Iran required no license after December of 2016, but despite that change in the law, the Faghihis were charged with exporting genetic sequencing machines without an OFAC license. Dr. Faghihi was charged with acts that were not criminal at the time they were alleged to have occurred. Because the law with which they were charged was no longer a law, the accompanying money laundering/wire fraud charges were invalid as well. Likewise, the importation of DNA was excluded from the list of items that were illegal to import into the U.S. 

After the defense team filed motions to strike the invalid language from the indictment and to dismiss the charges, the government ultimately agreed to dismiss the charges against Dr. Faghihi and her co-defendants. The charges against Dr. Farzaneh Modarresi (represented by Hilton Napoleon) were dropped at the same time as Dr. Faghihi’s, and the charges against Dr. Mohammed Faghihi (represented by Saam Zangeneh) were dropped several months later pursuant to a pre-trial diversion agreement.

Dr. Faghihi has been reunited with her family and is settling back into a normal life. Attorney Estlund said, “This case is an example of how a normal, law-abiding, private citizen can be wrongly targeted by the government. This client and her family did an excellent job of remaining united and mobilized. They worked tirelessly to aid our legal team in Dr. Faghihi’s defense. We are beyond happy for them and for Dr. Faghihi’s victory in this case.”

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.