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