In this series, Red Notice Law Journal addresses the changes created by the newly enacted CCF statute. Many of the changes are reflective of those requested by INTERPOL practitioners and by human rights organizations in the last several years. For example, Fair Trials International provided input that was instrumental in advocating for INTERPOL reform, and many of its recommendations made their way into the new statute.

As an attorney representing clients who have been frustrated in the past by the perception of a lack of clarity and transparency in the CCF’s processes, I have also recommended changes to the CCF’s response format and the depth of information and transparency contained in those responses. The CCF’s new statutory obligation to publish its decisions, as discussed here, is one of the most welcome changes of all.

In addition to the CCF embracing its own new obligations under the statute, the CCF is also now more clear about one of the obligations of Red Notice subjects seeking relief from the CCF after previously being denied relief from the organization. Previously, the applicable rules only made reference to a general notion, addressed here, that successive requests for relief could be denied if they were deemed substantially similar to previous requests or if the CCF viewed the requests as being abusive of the CCF’s processes.

Now, however, the statute provides a clear statement of how successive requests will be reviewed, or not. Article 42 of the statute provides that

(1) Applications for the revision of decisions of
the Requests Chamber may be made only
when they are based on the discovery of facts
which could have led the Requests Chamber
to a different conclusion if that fact had been
known at the time at which the request was
being processed.
(2) Applications for revision must be made within
six months after the discovery of the fact.

The applicant therefore has clear guidance as to when a renewed request is admissible and when it is not. This specification obviously places a burden on the applicant, but every legal or quasi-legal body has procedural requirements, and the fact that individuals who apply to the CCF for relief now have more clear guidance renders the process more predictable, and therefore, more fair.

As always questions or comments are welcomed.

Last November, at the annual meeting held under the direction of INTERPOL’s newest Secretary General, Jürgen Stock, the organization adopted new rules to be applied to its quasi-appellate body, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (“CCF”).  This change marks the first time since 2012 that INTERPOL and the CCF have undergone such a substantive change in the rules.

The new rules are set forth in the “Statute of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files,” the purpose of  which is to define the work of the CCF.  The changes in the CCF are both procedural and substantive.  We’ll address the most significant differences in the next several posts, and today will begin with one of my favorites and something that almost no one ever asks for: more lawyers.

In the context of the CCF, more lawyers is good.  Up until now, the CCF has been comprised of five members, who are required to include: one chairperson who has held a senior judicial or data protection post; two data protection experts having held senior positions in that field; an electronic data processing expert having held a senior position in that field; and an expert with international experience in international police co-operation.  While some attorneys have held the positions, there has not been an absolute requirement that attorneys be appointed. Consequently, the Commission members’ experience in or interest in international human rights issues, criminal law fundamentals, and international judicial matters have not been required.

Now, however, the new Statute re-defines the makeup of the CCF.  There will now be two chambers that comprise the CCF:

The Supervisory and Advisory Chamber, responsible for:

  • ensuring compliance of personal data with INTERPOL’s rules, and
  • assisting INTERPOL with advise on projects, rules, and oeprations regarding the processing of personal data.

The Requests Chamber, responsible for:

  • examining and deciding on requests for access to and removal or correction of data.

The Requests Chamber is required to include five lawyers, one of each with expertise in data protection, international police cooperation, international criminal law, human rights issues, and one with judicial or prosecutorial experience.

While the CCF has already staffed very capable attorneys who work on the data requests, this is the first time that the members of the Commission will be required to be attorneys as well.  This change is indicative of a higher commitment by Commission members to the examination and understanding of legal arguments and theories, and should make the work of the CCF’s staff attorneys less burdensome in terms of pre-session preparation of cases.

The inclusion of attorneys on the CCF will also assist in accomplishing one of the other new requirements of the CCF: to provide reasoned and published opinions.  More on this topic next time.

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.

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.

Second case study: Americas-based client with Red Notice from north African country

In this case, our client had visited a country in the north of Africa on vacation as a young adult.  While vacationing, he was arrested for possessing a small amount of marijuana. He paid a fine and his passport was returned to him and he returned home as planned.

Many years later, he learned that he had been charged, tried, and sentenced in absentia (in his absence) to serve a lenghty prison term for a very different charge: trafficking in drugs, not just possession of a small quantity. He was shocked, because he had never been notified of the charges, the trial, or the sentence, and only learned of the Red Notice on the case when he attempted to travel.

We challenged the Red Notice on multiple grounds, including a new one for us: the requesting country violated its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR). The CCF ultimately recommended the removal of this Red Notice based primarily on two of the grounds that we raised: first, it found that the requesting country violated our client’s due process rights, and second, it violated its obligations under the VCCR. The CCF’s recommendation was accepted, and the notice was removed.

Our client had attempted to resolve this matter for years before coming to us for help, and had been told be other counsel that Red Notice removal simply was not possible. He was greatly relieved to learn first-hand that it was, indeed possible.

* These changes will be addressed in the coming posts.

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:

First case study: Vladimir and Alexandr Kholodnyak

In this case, our clients, Vladimir and Alexandr Kholodnyak,** succeeded in their efforts to remove the Russian- requested Red Notices in their names.  The CCF agreed to remove both of the brothers’ Red Notices, and followed its now-standard practice by specifiying in the decision letter the following information:

• The data registered in INTERPOL’s files was not compliant with INTERPOL’s rules. Consequently, the Commission recommended that INTERPOL delete the data concerned.

• INTERPOL’s General Secretariat has informed all INTERPOL National Central Bureaus that the data has been deleted from INTERPOL’s files.

• All NCBs have been instructed to update their national databases to reflect the removal of the Kholdonyaks’ data.

The CCF’s decision in the Kholodnyak’s case was additionally significant because the notices not only significantly affected their business interests, but they also posed a problem for their immigration cases in the United States.  With the removal of the notices, the brothers face one less impediment to achieving their immigration goals, and they are free to pursue their professional and personal lives. Additionally, their cases received some negative and seemingly biased media coverage, so the removal of the Red Notices brought a sense of vindication as well.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

* These changes will be addressed in the coming posts.

*Information published here with clients’ consent.

One of my favorite adages is one that defense attorneys use in closing arguments when the government’s case contains some evidence of guilt, and some evidence of illegal police conduct:

If a waiter in a restaurant brings you soup with a cockroach in it, you don’t eat around the cockroach- you send the whole bowl back to the kitchen because all of the soup is tainted.

I am reminded of this story when I think about China’s Skynet investigation, the subject of a report here.

China has escalated extradition efforts in furtherance of its anti-corruption endeavor, named Skynet, and is seeking the assistance of other countries and INTERPOL, through the use of Red Notices, to find and bring home government officials who left the country and allegedly committed financial crimes.

Of course, often times when we see a massive anti-corruption drive, we also see an accompanying slew of human rights violations.  It appears from the article cited above that China’s Skynet is no exception. From the article, some detail is provided about the tactics China uses to encourage people to return to China to face their charges:

Over 40 percent of the 738 fugitives who returned to China in 2015 were “persuaded” to come back rather than forcibly repatriated, according to the CCDI. Fugitives’ family members sometimes played a role in these “persuasion efforts”, Li Gongjing, a Shanghai police officer, said in an interview with Xinmin Weekly magazine.
“It’s very effective. A suspect is like a kite. Although he is in a foreign country, his line is in China and we can find him through his relatives,” Li said.

“Finding” a suspect is different from “persuading” her to return. In almost every case I have seen where an improperly Red Notice is requested against a subject who has family members in the requesting country, government officials’ “persuasion” efforts have not included polite letters or requests. Rather, they have included the use of physical force and intimidation, seizure of legally owned assets, threats to have family members fired from their jobs, revocation of professional licenses and permits, and the like.  And this is all before the subject is returned to the requesting country- it’s not a stretch to imagine that such a country will commit further human rights and legal violations if she did return.

China has a long-standing history of violating human rights in the name of maintaining law and order.  For this reason, some countries, including the United States, have not agreed to an extradition treaty with China.  Recent evidence  illustrates that China continues its pattern of human rights violations: it has ignored the international amnesty status of individuals in order to re-patriate them, and has also engaged in disappearing individuals who have spoken against the government.

So, back to the soup.  Before INTERPOL can legitimately become involved with China’s anti-corruption prosecutions, China should be required to show substantive and documented reform in the area of human rights and due process rights.  Until then, the whole bowl of Skynet soup is tainted and should be returned to the kitchen.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

 

Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, has threatened to at least attempt to continue Venezuela’s abuse of INTERPOL’s Red Notice system.

The paper product supplier Kimberly-Clark stopped production in Venezuela several weeks ago, in the midst of Venezuela’s worsening economic crisis.  Venezuelans already wait for hours in lines on a daily basis in an effort to obtain basic supplies such as toilet paper, diapers, and personal products. The absence of Kimberly-Clark’s products will certainly exacerbate the shortage.  Just as numerous other companies have done recently, Kimberly-Clark  cited a shortage of currency and raw materials in addition to soaring inflation rates as contributing factors to its inability to continue doing business in Venezuela.

President Maduro quickly accused the company of violating the country’s constitution and laws, and announced his intention to seek the INTERPOL-assisted arrest of Kimberly-Clark representatives. His announcement serves to remind privately held companies that, in addition to evaluating basic economic factors when determining where to conduct business, they must also evaluate the stability of the controlling government as well as its improper use of the judicial system in order to achieve its goals.

If President Maduro makes good on his threat, we can expect to see Red Notices requested for a host of politically motivated, financial crimes; INTERPOL will be left to evaluate the validity of those requests; and the attorneys for the Kimberly-Clark representatives will have to seek the removal any of the Red Notices that are issued.

As always, questions and comments are welcomed.

 

Given the fact that I have done my share of complaining about the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files demonstrating a lack of transparency and the need for more disclosure about its decision-making process, it is only fair that credit be given when the CCF does show progress on those fronts.

In a decision that my firm recently received from the CCF, the following pieces of information were included, in addition to its standard language:

  • the relevant arrest warrant was identified and attached to the decision
  • the date that the case was considered by the CCF was provided
  • the Commission’s final thoughts regarding each of my client’s claims were provided (although the precise nature of the analysis was not)
  • the Commission acknowledged other relevant information regarding the client

This type of decision provides for a better understanding of the Commission’s considerations, activity, and viewpoint.  It allows for the recipient to feel that a full review of the case did occur, and therefore contributes to the CCF’s credibility.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

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.

 

In the last post, I addressed the fact that it seems that some of the CCF’s decisions are being issued more quickly than they have been issued in the past. The CCF’s 2014 Annual Report sheds some light on the Commission’s current approach to its ever-increasing caseload:

A continuing increase in the workload of the Commission was again apparent in 2014. In response to this situation, the Commission decided to double the number of days it spends in session, meaning that instead of meeting for 6 days as in 2014, the Commission will now meet for 12 days in 2015. 

… As this increase was particularly evident in relation to the number of requests received from individuals, the Commission adapted its methods of work to deal with this increasing workload and to improve its efficiency.

… In order to facilitate this additional workload the Secretariat to the Commission gained two additional lawyers and one additional administrative staff member.

Additionally, INTERPOL’s new refugee policy provides the CCF with clear, straightforward guidelines on how to efficiently process Red Notice challenges by refugees, thus providing another opportunity for the more rapid processing of certain cases.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.