INTERPOL's Infrastructure

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.

 

This is the second in a series of posts addressing the current call for INTERPOL’s reform.

Fair Trials International recently released a report containing its recommendations for change to INTERPOL’s current system.  The report, found here, includes two major areas for reform:

1.  Protection from abuse of INTERPOL’s tools by member countries, and

2.  Creation of a more fair and transparent process for individuals who are challenging data that has been processed by INTERPOL.

With regard to providing protection from abusive member countries, Fair Trials recommends several methods of correction to INTERPOL’s current activity.  One of these recommendations concerns INTERPOL’s treatment of cases wherein an individual who is the subject of a Red Notice has received asylum from another country.  

Currently, a Red Notice subject who has been granted asylum in another country may remain the subject of a Red Notice from the requesting member country.  This is true even where the grounds for the asylum are directly related to the case that generated the Red Notice.  Fair Trials rightly recommends that the granting of asylum for the same proceedings which give rise to the Red Notice should trigger the protections of INTERPOL’s Constitutional Article 3.  (Article 3 prohibits INTERPOL’s involvement with any matter of a political nature.)

This recommendation is a sound one, and would be very easily implemented by INTERPOL and the CCF.

When a domestic court rules on an asylum claim, it has necessarily considered the factual grounds both for and against the claim, as well as the legal basis for both positions. INTERPOL should recognize that, while it is the repository for data supplied by its member countries, once a court of competent jurisdiction has evaluated the case that gives rise to the data and found that the data breaches INTERPOL’s constitution because of a valid claim for asylum, INTERPOL must remove itself from any further involvement in the matter.

As always, comments and thoughts are welcomed.

In the next post: what should be the minimum required documentation that a member country must supply in order to obtain a Red Notice?

This is the second in a series of posts addressing the current call for INTERPOL’s reform

Fair Trials International recently released a report containing its recommendations for change to INTERPOL’s current system.  The report, found here, includes two major areas for reform:

1.  Protection from abuse of INTERPOL’s tools by member countries, and

2.  Creation of a more fair and transparent process for individuals who are challenging data that has been processed by INTERPOL.

With regard to providing protection from abusive member countries, Fair Trials recommends several methods of correction to INTERPOL’s current activity.  One of these recommendations concerns INTERPOL’s treatment of cases wherein an individual who is the subject of a Red Notice has received asylum from another country.  

Currently, a Red Notice subject who has been granted asylum in another country may remain the subject of a Red Notice from the requesting member country.  This is true even where the grounds for the asylum are directly related to the case that generated the Red Notice.  Fair Trials rightly recommends that the granting of asylum for the same proceedings which give rise to the Red Notice should trigger the protections of INTERPOL’s Constitutional Article 3.  (Article 3 prohibits INTERPOL’s involvement with any matter of a political nature.)

This recommendation is a sound one, and would be very easily implemented by INTERPOL and the CCF.

When a domestic court rules on an asylum claim, it has necessarily considered the factual grounds both for and against the claim, as well as the legal basis for both positions. INTERPOL should recognize that, while it is the repository for data supplied by its member countries, once a court of competent jurisdiction has evaluated the case that gives rise to the data and found that the data breaches INTERPOL’s constitution because of a valid claim for asylum, INTERPOL must remove itself from any further involvement in the matter.

In the next post: what should be the minimum required documentation that a member country must supply in order to obtain a Red Notice?

As always, comments and thoughts are welcomed.

(This is the fourth  post in a series about the CCF’s Annual Report for 2012)

 

In his speech to the General Assembly last month, the Chairman of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files raised several issues for the GA’s consideration, and among them was the invitation to work with the General Secretariat to update INTERPOL’s rules.

The idea of yet another change to the rules likely evokes sighs of exasperation from the members of the working group on the processing of information, who in 2012 saw the results of its Herculean efforts when the new Rules on the Processing of Data became effective.  The modifications and streamlining of the Rules (formerly the Rules on the Processing of Information, or RPI), was a very necessary endeavor, which naturally involved a great deal of time and effort.

So why tweak them even more?

Chairman Hawkes is right when he says that continued change is needed.  As INTERPOL grows, member countries have increasing access to personal data of individuals.  Most of the time, member countries use their INTERPOL access for legitimate law enforcement goals.  However, there are also increasing opportunities for – and instances of – abuse by some member countries.  The CCF is INTERPOL’s means of safeguarding its own reputation as a legitimate international organization, so as INTERPOL evolves, so should the CCF.

One very small example provided by Chairman Hawkes is that of disclosing to individuals whether information exists about them within INTERPOL’s databases.  As it stands, that disclosure is only allowed under limited circumstances, ostensibly due to INTERPOL’s concerns that 1) member countries own the data that it is safeguarding, and 2) it is more difficult to apprehend subjects, such as Red Notice subjects, when they know that a notice exists.

These concerns no longer serve as valid bases for denying information to individuals.  By the time a person is contacting INTERPOL regarding their own data, the cat is out of the bag and someone or something has already alerted them to the fact that INTERPOL is assisting in efforts to find, track, or apprehend them.  Nothing is lost by confirming this information, which may have been processed improperly.  On the other hand, the refusal to confirm it may lead to the person’s wrongful apprehension, and may prejudice his ability to challenge the notice.

For this reason, when Chairman Hawkes says,

It may be appropriate for the Organisation to consider changes taking place in the international environment on issues such as the right to know whether information exists on an individual, without necessarily disclosing its content.  The Commission remains ready to work with the General Secretariat on any updating to the Organisation’s Rules that might be considered appropriate to take account of these international developments…

he is right.  As INTERPOL is functioning in the context of multiple “right to know” or “right to information” campaigns and organizations, like Article19, Freedom of Information Advocates Network, and freedominfo.org, it can only maintain credibility if it keeps up with the international community’s standards on human rights.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

(This is the third post in a series about the CCF’s 2012 Annual Report)

Each year, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF) submits its annual report at the General Assembly meeting.  The report is normally presented by the the Chairman of the Commission in conjunction with his annual speech.

This year, Chairman Billy Hawkes offered several observations and proposals regarding the need to strengthen the Commission’s role in the organization.  While acknowledging that the vast majority of INTERPOL use is uncontroversial, portions of his speech were directed at the small percentage of cases were INTERPOL’s channels are abused.

 In addressing the inappropriate use of INTERPOL, particularly in the context of political issues, Chairman Hawkes stated, 

… it is for the Organisation as a whole to make clear that such behaviour is unacceptable.  The Commission can only play a limited role and is very alive to the accusation that it colludes with such behaviour by not adopting a more challenging approach in cases that come before it.

The fact that the Commission’s decisions on individual cases are formally only recommendations contributes to this negative perception.  Since the General Secretariat invariably accepts our recommendations, there is clearly a case for formalising this position.

Chairman Hawkes’s latter comment, and apparent proposal, both go to the fact that the CCF’s recommendations on individual cases are almost always accepted by the General Secretariat (only one case in 2012 was determined contrary to the CCF’s initial recommendation, and even in that case, the revised decision was based on new information provided to the CCF by the General Secretariat).

Despite that fact, it is also true that the CCF’s decisions are subject to being rejected in some circumstances by the General Secretariat, as well as being considered by the Executive Committee and even the General Assembly as a whole, which certainly creates ample room for accusations of partiality and politics in the decision making process.

So it appears that while the CCF enjoys autonomy in its decision making process as a matter of practice, the Chairman makes a case for making that autonomy more official.  If that were to happen in the truest sense, then the currently existing quasi-appellate function served by the General Assembly, although rarely invoked, would need to be replaced.  

The solution that comes to mind is a panel of experts specifically trained in INTERPOL’s rules and governing texts, educated as to the facts of the individual cases, and allowed to make informed findings as to both the CCF’s analysis and the alleged violations of the underlying case being challenged.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

The Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s files has just issued its 2012 Annual Report.  The report provides information regarding the CCF’s activities over the last year.  It also includes statistics on the CCF’s decisions in cases that it considered during its three sessions in 2012.

Over the next several posts, I will address various topics of interest to the INTERPOL attorneys and subjects.  The primary areas of focus will be the CCF’s decision-making process and results; the CCF’s call for improvement and reform;  and issues that are new to the CCF’s annual report. For today, I will take the opportunity to answer a reader’s question regarding data retention on invalid Red Notices

Deletion of Invalid Red Notices

One of the matters discussed in the annual report is that of data retention after the underlying reason for the data has been satisfied or made invalid.  The CCF reports that there is an ongoing concern with the retention of data within INTERPOL’s files after the subject is no longer wanted.

Normally, INTERPOL deletes information from its databases once a subject is not wanted, and only rarely may that information be retained in compliance with INTERPOL’s rules. 

A reader recently asked a related question: what happens when member countries fail to delete invalid information from their own domestic databases?  Each member country has its own internal databases, separate and apart from its access to INTERPOL’s databases.  INTERPOL’s rules require that member countries process all data in conformity with their own domestic laws and regulations.  

When a member country fails to delete invalid data from INTERPOL’S databases, this is a clear violation of INTERPOL’s rules, and an evidence-supported complaint to INTERPOL will normally solve the issue.  However, when the country fails to update its own internal databases, domestic law necessarily governs.  INTERPOL may be willing to contact the member country to advise of the inconsistency and recommend an update, but it has no authority to force the correction.

The former Red Notice subject may also avail herself of the fact that INTERPOL’s member countries are required to process information in the context of compliance with their own domestic laws, and where local law requires updating of criminal databases, stale data constitutes a violation of law.  If a member country has a pattern and practice of violating its own rules, specifically with respect to data retention, INTERPOL may exercise its right to place the country’s NCB (National Central Bureau) under supervision until it is satisfied that the country is back in compliance with its own rule of law.

A member country’s refusal to update its databases, particularly those that are publicly represented as being INTERPOL-related, certainly runs counter to INTERPOL’s stated goals of accountability and transparency. 

As always, questions and comments are welcomed.

 

 

 

 

In the 2011 film version of The Adventures of Tintin:  the Secret ofthe Unicorn, part of the plot concerned two detectives who were “INTERPOL agents” investigating a crime.  The two detectives look very similar to one another and are portrayed as more or less bumbling, ineffective agents.  

This was an animated film, so some artistic license is to be expected, but it bears pointing out that INTERPOL does not send agents or detectives around the world investigating pickpockets (as in the film) or other crimes.  Rather, it receives information from the law enforcement agencies in INTERPOL member countries around the world and shares that information with other member countries to aid in the suspect’s apprehension.  

When we hear about “U.S. INTERPOL” or “the Ethiopian INTERPOL office,” we are hearing a reference to the liaison between that member country’s National Central Bureau (“NCB”) and INTERPOL, not to an office owned or operated by INTERPOL.

So it was with interest that I read yesterday that INTERPOL’s agents in Mexico had gone missing while conducting an investigation.  Multiple media outlets reported that INTERPOL’s investigating officials had left the city of Chihuahua on Monday and not reached their destination of Ciudad Juárez.  This would be odd, of course, when INTERPOL has no such officials.  

INTERPOL was quick to clarify that in Mexico, the NCB is under the authority of the Policía Federal Ministerial, a part of the Procuraduría General de la República, not INTERPOL.  Moreover, as reported here, Mexican officials have stated that not only are no INTERPOL officials missing, but no one at all is missing.

So, to be clear:  No Thompson and Thomson, no INTERPOL agents in Mexico, and no missing police officers in Mexico.  At all.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

 

I received a question from a reader this week who was interested in knowing which countries were actually INTERPOL member countries.  INTERPOL keeps an updated list of its member countries on its website on this page.  Each member country has its own page of facts and relevant information.  Many also have links to press releases that were issued by INTERPOL with reference to that specific country.

Member countries can use their INTERPOL pages in varying ways.  A review of the INTERPOL page for any country of interest provides a bit of insight as to the country’s most recent joint endeavors with INTERPOL, such as this page for South Africa.  It may also provide links to relevant law enforcement agencies, as is found in Norway’s page.  Paraguay’s page provides an example of how the countries also use their INTERPOL pages to highlight certain wanted subjects.  The United Arab Emirates provides little information compared to some other countries, but it includes a video in its page.

When I reviewed the pages for each of the countries, the inevitable question of superlatives arose.  Toward that end, I humbly suggest that the following awards go to the following member countries:

To the reader who posed the question, thanks for the opportunity to review the various member countries’ INTERPOL pages.  We may have to make “superlatives” a yearly event.

As always, questions and comments are welcomed.

 

When INTERPOL introduced its I-link system, the goal of the system was to provide its member countries with near-instant access to one another’s shared information about wanted subjects.  While that goal clearly has been met, it hasn’t been without some bumps in the road.  

Along with the benefit of instant access come the drawbacks of lack of review.  Prior to I-link’s implementation, member countries were required to submit their requests for Red Notices to Interpol for approval.  Only after the requests had been reviewed and approved by the General Secretariat would they be circulated in INTERPOL’s databases and made available to other member countries.  

Under the current I-link system, however, no such review or approval is required prior to the entry and circulation of a Red Notice.  According to the 2011 annual report of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files, that lack of review presents one of the problems with the I-link system.  The Commission’s finding in section 5.2.3 of the report addressed that concern and emphasized:  

While automatic checking mechanisms are increasingly advanced, they are not intended to replace human checks.

And given the fact that Red Notices are cloaked in a presumption of validity, the fact that they can now be issued without any “human check” is particularly alarming.  The simple truth is that any member country that has a corrupt, lazy, or improperly motivated INTERPOL liaison official can easily and quickly upload invalid Red Notices into INTERPOL’S databases.  The result is that truly innocent people may have their lives turned upside down while they navigate the waters of INTERPOL, detention, and extradition.

While the Commission must be commended for keeping INTERPOL honest, it remains to be seen exactly how INTERPOL will rectify the problem of Red Notices that are improperly entered into the I-link system.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

INTERPOL’s annual General Assembly was recently held in Rome.  Now that the GA has come to a close, we have been discussing some of the decisions made during the meetings.  In the last post, the President of INTERPOL was the topic; today, we review the other newest members of the Executive Committee.

The Exectutive Committee is charged with organizing the meeting agendas of the General Assembly each year, as well as overseeing the execution of the decisions made by the General Assembly; submitting ongoing projects to the General Assembly as it sees fit; and supervising the work of the Secretary General. The Executive Committee meets three times per year.

This year, the following people were elected to  Executive Committee:

  • Alan Bersin, Assistant Secretary of International Affairs for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Vice President for the Americas), 
  • Nobuyuki Kawai, Director of the Organized Crime Department of the National Police Academy of Japan (Vice President for Asia), 
  • Algeria’s Abdelkader Kara Bouhadba, Commissaire Divisionnaire de Police, Directeur de la Police Judiciaire (Delegate for Africa), 
  • Bob Paulson, Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Delegate for the Americas),
  • Jong Yang Kim of the Korean National Police Agency and Head of INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Seoul (Delegate for Asia),
  • Brigadier General Saoud Abdallah Al-Mahmoud, Director of the International Cooperation Department of Qatar’s Ministry of Interior (Delegate for Asia), and 
  • Filippo Dispenza, Brigadier General of the Italian National Police (Delegate for Europe).

All of the Executive Committee members are listed here; some members are continuing their existing terms of service.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.