Some of the best advice I ever received was from a professor who told my law school class to “knock off the legal mumbo-jumbo” and just speak plainly, so people can understand you.  When lawyers speak in legal-ese or in industry terms, the only people who really understand them are other lawyers, and other people in the industry being discussed.  The effect is that the person delivering the mumbo-jumbo is misunderstood, and perhaps, too, not trusted very much.  Sometimes, the responses issued by INTERPOL’s CCF ( the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files, the body that reviews requests for correction or deletion of data in INTERPOL’s system) fall into the “mumbo-jumbo” trap.

Today, I received yet another example of the not-quite-clear language that sometimes appears in the CCF’s response letters.

The subject individual, like many others, inquired about or challenged his or her INTERPOL data, either alone or with a lawyer, and received a response.  The response, however, left more questions in place than answers.  The letter from the Commission stated that the information the individual was requesting “is no longer in Interpol’s files.”  That’s it.  The individual, naturally, was not quite sure if this means that the Red Notice has been cancelled and deleted, if he or she can now travel freely, if the various National Central Bureaus of Interpol have been advised of the deletion, or why the information was no longer in the files.

The individual’s questions are reasonable, and since the CCF found his or her initial request to be admissible, it is necessarily bound by its rules to provide that individual with access to his or her files within INTERPOL’s databases.  “Access” is only “access” if it is meaningful; anything less is a mere hint or clue that requires further investigation and further contact with the CCF. In order for the CCF’s responses to be meaningful, and to avoid the need for repeated requests for explanation and clarification, here are a few ideas for the CCF’s consideration when generating future correspondence:

  • Include a statement that explains the significance of the CCF’s actions or decision.  In the example provided above, the letter might state, “Your data is no longer in INTERPOL’s files, which means that there is no data about you in INTERPOL’s files that could be used by any INTERPOL member country towards your detention or extradition, or prosecution or sentencing in any case, as of this date.
  • Explain why there is “no data:”  “The data in your name was removed because a doubt was raised as to its compliance with INTERPOL’s rules regarding private business disputes.”  “The data in your name was removed because the CCF received confirmation that you have already served your sentence.”
  • When sending letter explaining that a subject’s request has been deemed admissible, and a decision will be rendered “in due course,” explain what “in due course” means.  If it means that a decision should issue within two months, say that.  If it will be two years, say it.  If their case is number 243 in the queue, say it.  Just let people know.

Past experience with the CCF shows that the Commission is readily capable of issuing clear, simple responses.  The CCF has done so both in publicized cases, like this recent example, or in this letter that I received for a client after seeking clarification about the CCF’s previous letter:

Please note that in 2012, upon the request of one of its member countries, the International Criminal Police Organization-INTERPOL published a Red Notice seeking the arrest with a view to extradition of Mr.  (name omitted for privacy- we’ll call him “X”), born on —–.

Please further note that in 2013, following a review of the case by the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF), and upon the CCF’s recommendations, the Red Notice has been cancelled and all the information relating to the afore-mentioned individual was deleted from INTERPOL’s database.

The cancellation of an INTEPOL Red Notice and its deletion from INTERPOL’s files means that it no longer exists as far as the Organization is concerned. Therefore, no INTERPOL member country should ever be able to use the afore-mentioned Red Notice as a basis to detain Mr. X.

This type of letter tells us the CCF means, and why it is important.  In a previous letter regarding that client, the CCF had explained the reason for its decision as well.  If the CCF could do this in every case, in a single letter, it would prevent repeated requests for clarification; provide meaningful access to Red Notice subjects; and move further toward accomplishing the CCF’s goal of transparency.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.