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.

 

I recently received a decision from the CCF (Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files), and I absolutely loved it. It was by far the best decision I have ever received from the CCF- and not just because we succeeded in our request to remove a client’s Red Notice, although of course that was the best part.

The decision was outstanding for another reason: it provided a thorough and detailed analysis of the Commission’s approach to the case. It provided a basis for understanding the Commission’s view of the case, and it gave the reader insight about how the Commission weighed the evidence and arguments that we had submitted, particularly against the political landscape of the country that requested the Red Notice.

Since the CCF does not publish its decisions, we can only glean information and guidance from its decisions on an anecdotal basis, as the decisions become available to us through our own work or the work of others. In that manner, I’ve noticed over the last 9 to 12 months that the CCF’s decisions are increasingly detailed, more thorough, and offer more transparency in terms of providing insight as to the Commission’s process and reasoning.

This change may be rooted in a variety of reasons, but the one that’s most apparent is this: the Commission’s decisions on requests for removal are now made by the Request Chamber, which was newly created in 2017 by the Statute of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files. The members of the Request Chamber are all lawyers, and the difference that makes is significant.

Certainly, the CCF has always had attorneys on its staff who handle much of the CCF’s work when it is not in session, and who work in overdrive when it is in session. However, the added influence of having attorneys in decision-making roles who preside over cases in session cannot be overlooked, and is becoming more apparent with time.

In the next post: who are the lawyers that make up the Request Chamber, and why it matters.

As always, thoughts and 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.

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.

 

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.

Last week, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF) met for its final session of the year. Each year, the CCF meets three times a year, which is the minimum number of times it is required to meet according to INTERPOL’s rules.

During its session meetings, the Commission members consider the requests of individuals who seek some form of relief from the the Commission.  Frequently, those individuals are the subjects of Red Notices and they or their attorneys are requesting to have the Red Notices removed or modified.

Decisions for cases pending from earlier this year and last year  seem to be coming particularly slow in coming out of the CCF.  We’ll soon find out whether the new composition of the Commission will have any bearing on the timeliness of its decisions.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

INTERPOL has received improper requests for Red Notices from Russia in the past, and all current indicators point to a worsening of the situation rather than an improvement.

Russia is an INTERPOL member country and is currently ranked 28 on Transparency International’s corruption index.  A score of 28 means that Transparency International has determined that Russia is close to the “highly corrupt” end of the corruption scale, and is more corrupt than 126 other evaluated countries. NGO Freedom House rated Russia’s political rights at a 6 out of 7 (a 7 is the worst on the scale).  Amnesty International has found that,

Despite ongoing attempts to improve the efficiency and independence of the judiciary, alleged political interference, corruption and the collusion of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials continued to result in frequent reports of unfair trials.

Individuals are not the only victims of corruption in Russia.  Companies are also frequently targeted by Russian officials.  Jens Berthelsen, an anti-corruption specialist who prepares companies for doing business in Russia, was quoted in CNBC’s “Is Russia Too Corrupt for International Business” about the plight of business entities in Russia:

 Companies often face extortion or have court cases brought against them.

Based on the deeply entrenched corruption in Russia’s court and political systems, it would seem that the country would be a great candidate for INTERPOL’s list of problem members.  INTERPOL has recognized in the past that certain of its member countries were abusive (my word) of INTERPOL’s tools.  For example, INTERPOL’s Secretary General visited Venezuela in 2011 and the organization engaged in significant efforts to open “direct channels of communication between Venezuela’s Fiscalia and INTERPOL’s Office of Legal Affairs” (INTERPOL’s words).  Following INTERPOL’s recognition of certain member countries’ abusive INTERPOL activity, it has appeared from the practicioner’s perspective that INTERPOL has viewed Red Notices from those countries with a more skeptical eye than before.

And that may already be the case with Russia.  In terms of high-profile cases, INTERPOL has refused to issue Red Notice requests where issuing the Notices would violate its rules.  Where the cases are less publicized, however, we should expect that INTERPOL will review the Notices only upon the request of the Red Notice subjects and/or their attorneys.

In the next post, I’ll address the issue of Russia’s “two parallel court systems” for run-of-the-mill cases and cases with litigants having extreme power differentials.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

The Egyptian justice system continues to suffer from the absence of basic due process, and we continue to see example after example of cases wherein defendants receive no protection from unfair trial proceedings.  First, a look at the cases, and then, why it matters to INTERPOL:

Last month, Human Rights Watch issued a report condemning the judicial proceedings in Egypt wherein the court sentenced multiple defendants to death after their trial:  

The March 22, 2014, trial, in which the vast majority of defendants were tried in absentia, took place in under an hour. The prosecution did not put forward evidence implicating any individual defendant, even though it had compiled significant evidence during its investigations, and the court prevented defense lawyers from presenting their case or calling witnesses, three of the defense lawyers told Human Rights Watch. A second summary session was held two days later solely to announce the verdict…

It’s shocking even amid Egypt’s deep political repression that a court has sentenced 529 people to death without giving them any meaningful opportunity to defend themselves,”

– Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch.

This month, David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times reports that three journalists currently on trial (for conspiring to broadcast false reports about civil strife in Egypt) were witnesses to the prosecutors’ absolute lack of evidence in their cases.  The article, here, describes how prosecutors presented the court with video, previously represented as the basis for the charges, when in fact the video showed “family photographs, trotting horses and Somali refugees in Kenya.”

In another article describing the trial, Dan Bloom and David Williams write for the Daily Mail that the judge dismissed the evidence as being irrelevant, but still refused to grant bond to the defendants.  The five defendants who were present for trial appeared in cages and openly argued along with their attorneys against the seemingly ridiculous evidence that was presented against them.

Journalists appear in cages for Egyptian trial

Amnesty International criticized the trial as “vindictive persecution of journalists for merely doing their jobs.”

It’s difficult to imagine more compelling grounds for dismissing Egypt’s current judiciary as completely out of compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as its own domestic laws.  As an INTERPOL member country, Egypt is bound to comply with both of those standards, as well as with INTERPOL’s governing rules.

In the face of such abuse of due process and basic standards of fairness, INTERPOL is bound to divorce itself from any of Egypt’s requests for assistance in apprehending fugitives until the country presents clear and consistent evidence that it is materially reforming its justice system.  Otherwise, INTERPOL risks losing any credibility as a protector of individual rights, and also renders meaningless its previous assurances that it requires member countries to comply with both domestic and applicable international law.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed. 

Most of the time, the posts for this blog are geared towards the subjects of Red Notices and their attorneys.  Today, however, the focus is on crime victims and their involvement with Red Notices.  A man wrote to me recently to inquire how one might go about seeking a Red Notice in a certain INTERPOL member country, when the relevant law enforcement officials have been ineffective in obtaining a Red Notice.

Criminal victims have many options in terms of how they handle their roles in a criminal case, but INTERPOL access is not one of those options.  INTERPOL’s channels are only accessible to law enforcement agencies.  All INTERPOL member countries have an assigned National Central Bureau (“NCB”) that is responsible for liaising between the country and INTERPOL.  

Victims do have the ability to take some steps that may aid in the process of seeking a Red Notice.  For instance, if they remain readily available to the investigating officers, a complete investigation is more easily conducted and the officers will be more likely to have the documents needed to obtain a Red Notice.

Another consideration is that not all law enforcement agencies are very well versed in the use of INTERPOL’s tools.  The victim’s request that a Red Notice be issued may be the first time that an officer ever even considers a Red Notice.  By familiarlizing himself with the NCB’s information page (on INTERPOL’s website) a victim can also become a source of information for law enforcement officials who may have never utilized INTERPOL’s tools.

Finally, as we have all learned, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  Victims who maintain contact with the assigned law enforcement officials are more likely to see progress on the cases.  Victims who sit idly by and hope for results will likely continue to do just that- sit and hope.  

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

 

 

The offices of Amnesty International in Russia were recently raided as part of an “audit,” as reported in the New York Times by David Herszenhorn and Andrew Roth, here.  Amnesty International is a leading non-governmental organization (NGOs) that provides in-depth and ongoing reports and information on the status of various human rights issues in countries around the world.  

The raid on Amnesty International is the most recent in a series of actions taken by the Russian government to tighten control over NGOs that provide human rights observation and advocacy services. Russian law now requires any nonprofit organizations that receive financing from abroad to register as “foreign agents.”  The inspections that have resulted from this policy have appeared to focus on advocacy groups in particular.

The significance of this particular brand of oppressive activity is that it often results in the NGO being forced to reduce its functions in the oppressive country, or to leave the country altogether.  John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia director, articulated his concern about Amnesty International’s future in Russia in a statement issued last week:

 “There has long been a fear that Russia’s new NGO law would be used to target prominent critical organizations,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia director. “The spate of inspections in recent weeks appears to confirm this suspicion. The bigger fear is that this is just round one, and that, after the smearing, the forced closures will come.

For those people who find themselves to be the subjects of Red Notices, the work of NGOs such as Amnesty International could not be more significant.  When challenging a Red Notice, it is often necessary to place an individual’s own experience into the context of a country’s ongoing practices, and to provide documented proof of a country’s history of human rights violations.  

Without the consistent and documented observations of reputable human rights organizations, it would be difficult to provide any substantive evidence of a given country’s history and pattern of human rights violations. And once the NGOs are attacked, it becomes increasingly difficult for other advocacy groups to maintain a voice of any kind.  Human rights observers will recall that Egypt conducted a this type of campaign against various NGOs in 2012.

About this time last year, we addressed a very similar situation in Egypt, wherein NGO workers were being arrested for working for unregistered agencies.  With the passage of time, and fewer observers and protections in place, we now see that activists are being targeted for prosecution.  Associated Press reporters Hamza Hendawi and Saral El Deeb report that five promininet activits in opposition to Egyptian President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are the subject of arrest warrants.  In their report, here, Hendawi and El Deeb point out that the five activists who are the subjects of the warrants were at the forefront of the 2011 uprising against former President Hosni Mubarark.  Is anyone surprised?

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.