The following post was originally published in March of 2011.  What a disappointment to see how Egypt has come to view its INTERPOL-related obligations. 

For those of us who are proponents of democracy, it has been mesmerizing to watch from afar the developments in Egypt recently. Like everyone, I wonder how the fledgling democracy will work for the people of Egypt, and whether they will be better off, as we all hope.

Perhaps unlike everyone except for other INTERPOL-philes, I also wonder what this means for the future of Egypt-originated Red Notices. Egypt was one of the founding member countries of INTERPOL and has a long history of both requesting and offering assistance with Red Notice subjects. How will the altered Egyptian government handle future requests for Red Notices? Will it be more or less observant of the rules designed to prevent political abuses of the judicial system?

Although the requirements for a Red Notice are inflexible and consistent, the individuals who request the Red Notices are still human, with all the biases that accompany the human condition. When we consider the information publicized by INTERPOL, we may not always consider its veracity, its reliability, or its very legality.

We should. The information publicized by INTERPOL is presumed to be accurate primarily due to the rigorous prerequisites to which the information is supposed to be subject prior to publication. When a national central bureau of any given participating country submits information to INTERPOL, the organization relies upon its General Secretariat to verify that the information is correct, but also that it was obtained legally. For the information to be gained legally, it must be obtained not only in compliance with INTERPOL’s various governing documents, but also with the requesting country’s laws.

But what happens if the requesting country doesn’t comply with its own laws when, say, issuing an arrest warrant? If an arrest warrant is issued illegally in Egypt, and Egypt’s National Central Bureau (NCB) accepts the information and forwards it to the General Secretariat of INTERPOL, that arrest warrant can be published internationally. The General Secretariat relies upon each member country’s representation that the information it submits is validly and legally obtained.

Even though the subject of the Red Notice has the ability to challenge the notice, the proper issuance of the notice is of critical significance because of the presumption of correctness which accompanies its issuance. A defensive challenge to a Red Notice begins with the presumption that the Notice has been properly issued, and that hurdle must be overcome by the challenging party. As noted by Mark Leon Goldberg of the UN Dispatch, INTERPOL is concerned with more than Julian Assange.  Most of the subjects of its Red Notices lack Assange’s considerable resources with which to challenge their Notices. If a Red Notice is issued without being truly subject to the rigors of INTERPOL’s prerequisites, not only is the integrity of INTERPOL damaged, but the person named in the Notice is substantially prejudiced before his attack on the notice ever begins.

My hope, like that of many others, is that Egypt’s people ultimately experience a democratic form of government, and one that is observant of its international, as well as domestic responsibilities to justice. Given the level of civility, respect, and civic responsibility shown by the citizens of Egypt during their protests, I’m guessing that any government that is truly reflective of the wishes of the Egyptian people will handle its international policing activities in true accordance with INTERPOL’s constitution and governing documents. 

As always, comments and thoughts are welcomed.

Egypt’s recent diffusion action against NGO staffers is not exactly the start we hoped to see a year ago.