INTERPOL's Infrastructure

In a recent documentary, “Interpol- who controls the world police?” the German public broadcast service, DW, explores issues affecting INTERPOL’s functioning, independence, and funding.  The documentary addresses a variety of questions that have arisen over the last decade or so as INTERPOL has wrestled with the challenge of assisting its member countries with the enforcement of laws while also attempting to maintain neutrality with respect to its treatment of its member countries.

Primary to the focus of the documentary is the issue of funding. INTERPOL is an international organization that historically been funded by its member countries on a relatively sliding scale: the more wealthy countries contribute more financial resources, and the less wealthy countries contribute less. However, even with some of the wealthiest countries in the world paying their share, INTERPOL’s budget is remarkably low considering the tasks for which it is responsible. After the 9/11 attack on the twin towers, as the organization sought to increase its role in the world stage of policing, it sought other funding options. The result was both beneficial and harmful to INTERPOL’s mission and reputation. In recent years, changes in both policy and practice have followed.

This is the first of a four-part series that examines DW’s documentary against the backdrop of INTERPOL’s past and current activities.

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For today, we’ll start with a very basic but important distinction: INTERPOL is not, as the documentary implies in its title, a police force meant to police the world. It is a data-sharing organization with whom its member countries agree to cooperate. The primary purpose of the organization is to assist its member countries with locating wanted individuals for prosecution or sentencing in criminal cases by circulating information about the wanted person’s location. Another, growing goal of INTERPOL is to assist its member countries’ police forces with education, prevention, and training. However, as illustrated in the documentary, INTERPOL has the capacity to take on a semi-private police force characteristic if it agrees at a policy level to enforce certain laws, to accept funding from private entities, and to allow its actions to be influenced by private interests.

In this series, we will examine each of these issues against the backdrop of INTERPOL’s past and in anticipation of its future.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

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We left off in the last post with a discussion about why a Request Chamber comprised entirely of lawyers makes a difference in the nature and quality of decisions being issued by the CCF.

In March of 2017, INTERPOL adopted a new Statute of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files. As with many new regulations, the effect of this one took some time to become realized. That effect is now apparent, and is partially due to the new make up of the Commission.

Previously, the Commission‘s membership did include professionals with legal backgrounds, but they were not all attorneys. Now, however, this is the required background for the individuals who will decide the cases:

Article 8, Statute of the CCF:

The Request Chamber comprises the following:

(4) The Requests Chamber shall consist of five members:
(a) A lawyer with data-protection expertise;
(b) A lawyer with recognized international experience in police matters, in particular international police cooperation;
(c) A lawyer with international criminal law expertise;
(d) A lawyer with human rights expertise;
(e) A lawyer who holds or has held a senior judicial or prosecutorial position, preferably with experience in international judicial cooperation.

That’s a lot of lawyers, and that’s a lot of relevant legal experience. This type of experience makes a difference in the Commission’s analysis of cases and arguments. Since this change in the composition of the Commission’s decision-making body, we have seen a change also in the quality, depth, and detail of the decisions being issued by the Commission.

The advantage to this new approach is not only that the Commission is providing more transparency and legitimacy to its process. The changes also mean that the Commission is allowing for a higher quality of requests: when applicants know how the Commission approaches its cases, applicants and their attorneys are able to tailor their requests in a manner that is best suited for the Commission’s analysis.

RNLJ has frequently included criticism of INTERPOL and has advocated for reform where it has been needed, and we will continue to do so. But for now, credit has to be given where credit is due. INTERPOL has gotten this right.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

A reader recently sent in this question:

hi, I am looking to assist a friend who is on an interpol red alert.

We wish to challenge the notice and have no idea how to gather the evidence allegedly supporting the notice .

any suggestions ?”

Any experienced, practicing attorney will likely understand why this question made my heart sink. Let me explain in the context of car repair.

It’s reasonable to think that some people are able to build their own automobile engine for the first time to use in their own automobile. If one has a sufficient background in automobiles, has installed engines built by others, and has studied engine building for some time, it would perhaps be a reasonable endeavor to attempt to build an engine, install it in a vehicle, and then drive it with one’s family members inside. Or, if the person was willing and able to spend the time researching and understanding vehicle design and repair, perhaps s/he could eventually become proficient enough to take on that challenge.

If not, the results can be disastrous and irreversibly damaging.

When I hear the kind of question such as that posed by our reader, above, it’s like hearing this about engine replacement:

hi, I am looking to assist a friend who needs a new automobile engine.

We wish to build and install the engine and have no idea how to find the engine block or the other engine components.

any suggestions?”

The question is so broad that it tells me that the author, obviously good-hearted and well-intentioned, is also not (yet) qualified to do this work, and has not yet studied the issues related to the question in any depth.

The answer to this question is broad- and in addition to needing evidence that supports the notice, the reader needs evidence to support the arguments for removal. The answer depends on what the evidence is, where it is, who has it, whether it’s relevant or not to your argument, whether it’s reliable or not. It also depends on the grounds for seeking the removal, assuming they exist- what are they? Which rules/laws/treaties/conventions were violated?  Finally, if the reader makes the attempt and fails, there is a good chance that INTERPOL’s rules will prohibit a second effort.

So the short answer – “Gather the evidence that supports your arguments from the places that your evidence exists- court dockets, public and private records, media accounts, etc., etc.”- presupposes that you know what your arguments are, that they are valid, and that there exists evidence to support them. In other words, the reader is prepared to build the engine and drive around in the vehicle with his/her family in the vehicle.

If that is all in place, then the reader should make the attempt. If not, s/he should find a qualified professional to assist.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

Under the leadership of its current Chairman,  Vitalie Pirlog, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (“CCF”) has proven in this year’s decisions that it is serious about holding National Central Bureaus to their obligations under INTERPOL’s rules.

In his speech at this year’s General Assembly, Chairman Pirlog reminded INTERPOL’s membership that the CCF often seeks information from their National Central Bureaus (“NCBs”). These responses are essential to the CCF’s ability to make decisions about requests for removal of Red Notices from the requesting country. Mr. Pirlog reminded member countries that timely responses were particularly important, given the CCF’s new statute that generally requires a response to be issued within four to nine months.

INTERPOL has always provided the required assistance to its members’ NCBs, but historically, the NCBs have not always been strictly observant of their duties to provided requested information, or to provide it timely. The CCF has apparently had enough of that, and is holding the members countries’ NCB’s feet to the fire.

Based on the CCF’s decision letters that have been received by this practitioner, it is clear that:

  • The CCF is generally adhering to the new time limitations for issuing decisions, with some decisions being issued even earlier than required;
  • The CCF is demanding cooperation from National Central Bureaus, and when they do not respond in a timely fashion, the CCF is proceeding to make a decision based on the information it has, rather than waiting or continuing the matter until the NCB provides a full response; and
  •  The decisions being issued by the CCF are generally accompanied by a reasoned explanation, detailing the Commission’s steps and considerations taken in reaching its decision.

These factors are critical to the CCF’s efforts at demonstrating transparency, and allow applicants to both appreciate the nature of the process, as well as to recognize that they were given a “fair shake” in INTERPOL’s processes. One would hope that the more lax NCBs recognize the shift in culture at the CCF, and become more compliant as a result. Whether they do or not, the CCF will benefit from the fact that it is protecting INTERPOL’s interests in transparency and the furtherance of human rights.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

As the year begins, and changes appear to be coming to both INTERPOL and the CCF,* Red Notice Law Journal reviews some highlights from the CCF’s activity in 2016:

Third case study: a comparison of the CCF’s treatment of Russian Red Notice requests:

In today’s post, I’ll compare two very different decisions from the CCF, primarily to highlight the difference in the quality and depth of the responses that we are receiving now.  Both cases involved very complicated fact patterns and legal issues, and both required that the CCF review a significant quantity of evidence prior to making its decision.

The decision in the first case, however, was more similar to the decisions that the CCF has issued in the past: concise, to the point, and lacking the information that would allow the client to fully understand the basis of the decision or that would allow the attorney to understand how the CCF viewed each legal argument. The decision in the second case contained many of the elements that the CCF will be required to include after the rules changes take effect in March.*

September 2016 decision regarding a Russian national:

In this decision, which was received in the early fall of 2016, the CCF advised that the client’s Red Notice had been removed, and confirmed that it had communicated to all the National Central Bureaus that the data should also be removed in their respective national databases.  This was not a particularly detailed decision as relayed to us, but it was obviously a welcomed one.

December 2016 decision regarding a Russian national:

In the decision received in December of 2016, the CCF methodically detailed the background of the case, the actions that it took upon receiving the evidence supplied on behalf of our client, and the reason for the CCF’s ultimate decision to remove the Red Notice. It also supplied an official document explaining in plain language the the client was not known to INTERPOL’s files nor did his data exist within INTERPOL’s databases.  The detail supplied in this letter allows for an understanding as to the CCF’s reasoning and analysis, which is valuable for the client as well as the attorney.  The client feels that the CCF really took the time to examine and understand the case, which is very important, given that many Red Notice subjects who seek relief from the CCF have never received due process in their cases from the countries that requested the notices.  The attorney benefits, as does the CCF, by learning which arguments and which evidence were most compelling, or least compelling, in the eyes of the Commission members.

This change in the CCF’s approach to issuing its decisions is beneficial to all parties. In the next series of posts, I’ll address these changes and how they might affect practitioners and notice subjects.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

*Changes to the CCF will be addressed in the next post.

A reader recently sent in the following question:

I am a red notice subject. I made a request to CCF and received a reply confirmation that the request is admissible. This was more than 2 years ago and I haven’t received anymore replies.

Should I write back another request to CCF or should I just keep waiting?

I have read that a repetitive numbers of request submitted by the requesting subject can make the commission not process the request.

This reader’s question points out a glaring flaw in the CCF’s procedures: the absence of mandated timely responses or updates.  INTERPOL’s rules as applicable to the CCF only require that the CCF respond to applicants’ requests “at the earliest opportunity.” Such a vague requirement becomes problematic when individuals like the reader, above, wait for years to receive responses.  Even if the CCF has valid reasons for such long delays, faith in the organization’s validity and capability is greatly diminished when no updates are either provided or required.  The CCF has made strides in the last year to improve the speed of its response, and appears to have made some progress in that area, which is welcome. However, as the reader and others have experienced, many older cases are still lanquishing and remain unanswered by the CCF.

For the price of a stamp (or better yet, free of charge: an e-mail), the CCF could send a letter that would both a) assure the inquiring party that the Commission has addressed the case appropriately and that work is stalled for a valid reason, and b) strengthen the Commission’s reputation for upholding its mission as an active, responsible, and responsive guardian of individual human rights.  This is such a small price to pay to guard one’s reputation, and yet the CCF consistently refuses to do so.

Perhaps the most disheartening portion of the reader’s question is his/her reticence in making requests for updates to the CCF because of a concern that the CCF may become frustrated to the point of not processing the request.  This reminds me of an experience of a friend of mine years ago during trial.  She was required to object continually because the prosecution was continually attempting to violate her client’s right to a fair trial.  The judge finally said, “Counsel, I am tired of your objections!”  She responded, “And I’m tired of making them!”

Likewise, it is tiring to have to repeatedly request updates from the CCF, and even more so when no response is forthcoming.  No individual should be afraid of seeking a response that is required to be made from the CCF, nor should the individual be forced to seek updates.  The CCF should proactively manage its caseload and inform the parties as to the status of their cases in a timely fashion.  I can think of nowhere that two years is considered to be timely, and in fact, a two year delay in most circumstances would result in negative consequences:

  • If a lawyer refused to respond to her clients for two years, her practice would shut down.
  • If law enforcement officers refused to provide their supervisors with an update on a criminal investigation for two years, the officers would be fired or re-assigned.
  • If a judge refused to address a case for two years without stating a good reason, the matter would be addressed by a higher court.
  • If a prison failed to transport a convicted person from jail to prison for two years without stating a good reason, the convicted person would be released.

And in fact, none of these circumstances arise with any regularity, because it is simply not allowed.  The CCF, on the other hand, is allowed by INTERPOL’s rules to maintain cases without providing updates or timely responses, and so it does just that with some frequency.

So, the answer to the reader’s question unfortunately appears to be that an update may not be forthcoming without a request for an update, and repetitive requests for updates would not be necessary if updates were provided proactively.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

 

It appears that one of the first orders of business upon Nina Vajić‘s assuming her post as Chair of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF) was to increase the number of scheduled sessions for the year.

The scheduled sessions for this year will be as follows:

25th – 27th February 2015

27th -29th May 2015

25th September 2015

16th -18th December 2015

INTERPOL observers will note that this is an increase from the thrice-yearly sessions that are normally scheduled.  The addition of a session will allow for more cases to be considered, and for cases to be considered sooner than they would under the previous schedules.

Adding more sessions to the yearly schedule is a solution to the CCF’s backlog of cases that I publicly wished for over two years ago, here.  It is encouraging to see that the CCF’s new chair is implementing this change, and it will be interesting to see what other changes her leadership will bring.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

 

INTERPOL’s next Secretary General, Jürgen Stock, was officially elected this past Friday at the organization’s annual General Assembly.  Back in June of this year, INTERPOL’s Executive Committee chose Mr. Stock as its candidate to succeed Ronald Noble in INTERPOL’s “CEO” position.

INTERPOL’s President Mireille  Ballestrazzi welcomed the election of the new Secretary General, and said: “The high-level responsibilities Mr Stock has discharged at national police level, combined with his extensive international experience, will serve as major assets to successfully lead the Organization in the years to come.”  In his speech to the General Assembly, Mr. Stock expressed his long-standing passion for INTERPOL and discussed his previous involvement with the organization.  His bio confirms that he has the law enforcement-focused practical and academic background expected of a Secretary General.  His speech and his public statements in the past also provide insight into his beliefs about the role of business and the private sector in relation to INTERPOL’s goals.  In 2012, Mr. Stock emphasized a need for international collaboration on crime fighting with both public and private sector involvement.  He included those points in his speech to the General Assembly as well.  In the next five years and possibly longer, INTERPOL and the international policing community will witness how Mr. Stock’s vision for INTERPOL materializes.

Mr. Stock’s predecessor, Ronald Noble, received a tribute for his ‘outstanding work’  from President Ballestrazzi:  “Thanks to Mr. Noble, INTERPOL has been transformed through modernization, technological development and innovation, setting a benchmark in the history of the Organization.”  As Secretary General for the past three terms, Mr. Noble oversaw numerous changes to the organization.  Among my personal favorites of the improvements made during Mr. Noble’s leadership period were the greatly needed changes to the rules governing INTERPOL (the Rules on the Processing of Data) and the modification and modernization of INTERPOL’s website to make it more clear, thorough, and user-friendly.  Law enforcement types likely favored improvements such as the implementation of INTERPOL’s Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore; the I-Link system, and the Global Security Initiative.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

INTERPOL has a new Chairperson for the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files, which is the quasi-appellate arm of the organization.  Nina Vajić  assumed her new post as Chairperson in September.

INTERPOL’s announcement regarding Ms.Vajić’s new term is found here.  In her primary profession, she is a professor of Human Rights Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb, Croatia.  She is a former judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.  Her bio, here, boasts an impressive background in international and human rights law.

Ms. Vajić’s assignment to the CCF is clearly a strong statement in support of the CCF’s desire to be regcognized as a protector of individual human rights.  As such, observers both from within the organization and in the international human rights community will watch with interest to see how she manifests the CCF’s often-stated goal of securing the rights of those individuals seeking relief from the CCF.

In the next post, more on personnel changes at INTERPOL: a new Secretary General is elected.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

INTERPOL’s current Secretary General, Ronald Noble, will serve in his position until 2015, when his third term as Secretary General ends.  

INTERPOL’s Executive Committee has chosen Juergen Stock as the candidate who is likely to become Noble’s successor.  His background and qualifications are summarized here, on INTERPOL’s website.

The selection process is explained on INTERPOL’s Structure and Governance page:

On 17 June 2014, Juergen Stock of Germany was selected by INTERPOL’s Executive Committee as its candidate to be the Organization’s next Secretary General.

The candidacy of Juergen Stock will be submitted to INTERPOL’s supreme governing body, the General Assembly, for endorsement when it meets in Monaco in November. If endorsed, he will assume office when current Secretary General Ronald K. Noble steps down in 2015.

Once approved, Stock would become the eighth Secretary General of INTERPOL, and the first from Germany.  All of the previous Secretaries General were from member countries Austria, France, the United Kingdom, or the United States. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.