One of the most personal aspects of an INTERPOL case concerns a Red Notice subject’s decison about attorney representation. On that topic, a reader sent in the following question:

Can a termination of legal representation of a lawyer after the submission of the application form to the CCF ( deletion request) and before the first review by the Commission of the file automatically lead to the dismissal of the Application on a procedural basis?

This reader has clearly already hired an attorney who has submitted a request for removal of a Red Notice, and the case is now in the process of being reviewed by the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (“CCF”).

The answer to the question is no. An applicant’s choice of which attorney, or whether to hire an attorney, on an INTERPOL matter should have no effect at all on the CCF’s evaluation of the case.

However, if a change in counsel is made and a new power of attorney is executed for a new attorney to act on the subject’s behalf, the CCF must be advised of that change so that it has the correct contact information on file when it comes time to send out its decision or other correspondence.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

A lawyer from China recently sent me this question:  

How does American justice system treat a Red Notice? Will the authorities arrest the person right away upon discovering the Notice?

Before addressing the question directly, it is also important to consider the purpose of the question, which is to determine what will happen to a client if they travel abroad and are found to be the subject of a Red Notice.  While detention based on the Red Notice is certainly a possibility, it also must be recognized that non-citizens entering foreign countries are subject to immigration laws as well as criminal and extradition laws.

When an INTERPOL member country decides, for whatever reason, not to engage in the detention and extradition proceedings that can accompany the apprehension of a Red Notice subject, that country may instead rely on its immigration laws to (often more simply and quickly) deal with the subject.

Immigration authorities may take action such as prohibiting entry into the country at the airport or seaport; denying travel authorization prior to travel; or initiating deportation proceedings for the subject.

On the other hand, the member country often does utilize its criminal justice system instead of its immigration system to handle the case of a wanted individual.  In the United States, a Red Notice does not act as an arrest warrant.  Rather, a domestic warrant must be created after the Office of International Affairs determines that the underlying charges justify extradition proceedings.  Only then is a prosecutor assigned to the case to obtain an arrest warrant. If the court enters an order of extraditability, the Department of State makes a final determination of whether to turn the individual over to the requesting country.

If a subject is considered by the U.S. government to be a flight risk, the government may seek the subject’s provisional arrest prior to the issuance of the arrest warrant. Interestingly enough, the government’s Criminal Resource Manual contains a recommendation that prosecutors NOT request provisional arrest of a subject when the subject is not a flight risk, but simultaneously states a policy that it will object to bond in extradition cases as a matter of course:


 Foreign Extradition Requests …

  3.   The government opposes bond in extradition cases.


 Request for Provisional Arrest…

[A formal request for extradition] is favored [over a provisional arrest request] when the defendant is unlikely to flee because the time pressures generated by a request for provisional arrest often result in errors that can damage the case.

It is true that the latter provision addresses requests by the U.S. government to other countries; but it’s still fun to note that the government will always oppose bond in extradition cases, even though it recognizes that certain extradition subjects are unlikely to flee.

A final note:  the common thread to the lawyer’s question, regardless of how the Red Notice subject is treated, is the fact that the Red Notice exists.  If the Red Notice is challenged and removed from INTERPOL’s databases, the Notice itself can no longer form the basis for immigration difficulties or extradition proceedings.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.


This post was originally published on July 18, 2011; this is an updated version.

Today’s post addresses an insightful and very personal comment that was posted here.  The author of that comment noted, correctly, that INTERPOL is sometimes used to further the corrupt goals of certain law enforcement officials in various member countries.  Obviously, the issuance of a Red Notice has a debilitating effect on its subject, and when the Notice is improperly issued, that effect is worsened by the very real sense of injustice that accompanies the Notice.  The author of the comment reports having experienced just such an injustice, and wonders why INTERPOL seems to allow this to happen without oversight.

Unfortunately, his is not an isolated experience.  INTERPOL has 190 member countries, each of which is bound by its membership conditions with INTERPOL to request or publish Red Notices only when it has ensured that the proper legal channels have been followed.  Based on that obligation, INTERPOL does assign a rather high level of trust to member countries, and Red Notices are strongly presumed to have been validly issued.

This does not mean that a Red Notice, once issued, must remain active until it has led to an arrest.  On the contrary, INTERPOL’s stated goals include observation and adherence to not only its own rules, but also such texts as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  When a subject or his lawyer files a proper challenge which shows a violation of INTERPOL’s governing rules and texts, it is indeed possible for a Red Notice to be withdrawn, modified, or revoked.

Nonetheless, what of the author’s larger question about INTERPOL’s quality assurance issues? INTERPOL’s “honor system” with its member countries inevitably results in the problem that any honor system encounters:  someone, somewhere, cheats.   That cheating may take the form of active misinformation or simple laziness and failure to carry out one’s duties.  Regardless of the manner of non-compliance with INTERPOL’s rules, the outcome for the Red Notice subject is the same:  she is immobilized, finds difficulty obtaining employment, suffers financially, and risks detention by law enforcement constantly.  

My thanks to the author of the comment for raising these important questions about a persistent problem, and I hope that he or his lawyer were able to resolve his problems.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed. 



We know that Egypt has attempted to utilize its access to INTERPOL’s databases for political reasons against people who posed ideological threats to the current government, and more recently, to a political opponent of its current president.  In accordance with its own constitution, INTERPOL has rightly refused to become involved in (or stay involved in) such politically motivated matters.  Egypt has also at least threatened to seek INTERPOL’s involvement in religiously based criminal offenses.

But what of other, less obvious violations of INTERPOL’s rules?  If Egypt is willing to violate INTERPOL’s rules in order to prosecute individuals, is it also willing to violate its own due process laws in order to obtain convictions?  The case of Wael Abbas is summed up here, by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (“UNHCR”)”

Award-winning digital journalist Wael Abbas was charged with selling communications services without a license, and because neither he nor his lawyers were ever informed of the trial date, he was sentenced in absentia to six months in prison and fined 500 Egyptian pounds ($86).

THe UNHCR went on to point out that, while the conviction was ultimately thrown out, the threat of multiple charges for the same alleged crime is also a very real threat in Egypt.

Even assuming that Egypt were to follow its own criminal procedure laws, Egyptian law does not contain the internationally accepted safeguards that allow for a due process compliant trial in absentia.  The problems with Egypt’s form of trial in absentia were aptly described by Human Rights Watch in its Q & A column about the trial of Hosni Mubarak:

Trying a defendant in absentia can undermine some of the defendant’s basic rights to a fair trial, including the right to be present, to be defended by counsel of the person’s choice, and to examine witnesses. International law disfavors but does not prohibit trials in absentia. National systems that maintain the practice should, at a minimum, institute procedural safeguards to ensure the defendant’s basic rights. These include requirements that the defendant be notified in advance of the proceedings and that the defendant unequivocally and explicitly waive his right to be present. The defendant should also have the right to representation in his or her absence, and should be able to obtain a fresh determination on the merits of the conviction following the person’s return to the jurisdiction.

Egyptian law does not meet these minimum requirements… Egyptian law does not include any procedural safeguards requiring that the court take into account whether the defendant’s absence was by choice or assess whether a defendant unequivocally and explicitly waived the right to be present before deciding to proceed with a trial in absentia.

Given that we have seen Egypt’s pattern and practice of using, and attempting to use, its access to INTERPOL’s tools in an abusive fashion in political and religious cases, there is no basis to believe that Egypt does not also misuse that access to further its goals in criminal cases where gross due process violations have occurred.  When the goal is a criminal conviction regardless of the means by which the conviction is obtained, no other motivation is necessary for a member country to violate INTERPOL’s rules.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.



For people who find themselves the subject of Red Notices, it seems that the more questions they ask, the more confused they become.  Part of this phenomenon is due to the nature of INTERPOL:  it can be difficult to digest the verbiage used by INTERPOL, and the organization’s processes and rules are not exactly intuitive.  

A few of the questions that may arise for Red Notice subjects are:

How can INTERPOL issue a Red Notice against me when it’s obvious that the charges are false?  INTERPOL allows its member countries to request or issue Red Notices if certain application criteria are met.  Those criteria do not include proof of guilt (although a record of a conviction is acceptable to INTERPOL as well.)  INTERPOL acts as an information conduit, not as a court which determines guilt or innocence.  This question is addressed in more detail in a previous post, here.

Can a lawyer help me?  It depends.  If your case was processed properly and all of the relevant rules, laws, and texts were followed, then no.  Your Red Notice was validly issued and you likely would have no claim for relief.  On the other hand, if the information regarding you was processed in violation of any of the applicable rules, laws, or texts, then you may have a valid claim for relief with INTERPOL and a competent lawyer can assist you with that claim.

How long will INTERPOL take to respond to an application for relief? Again, it depends.  Many variables will determine the length of time it will take to receive a response.  Those variables include:  the timing of your claim in relation to the next scheduled meeting wherein such claims will be considered; the complexity of your claim; and the need for INTERPOL to seek information from the relevant country’s National Central Bureau (NCB) regarding the matters raised in your claim.  It is not at all unusual for Red Notice disputes to take months or years to be fully resolved.  Therefore, if you have a Red Notice issue, waiting to address it only adds more time to the final resolution of the matter.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

When challenging a Red Notice, a lawyer has to be cognizant of many issues, not the least of which is the client’s personal timetable.  But the lawyer must ensure that the client’s need for speed does not overcome the more critical element of a complete and persuasive first submission for relief to INTERPOL.

In my experience, by the time the client decides to confront the Red Notice against him, he has already been through an investigation, charges being filed against him, efforts at defense, and flight from (or avoidance of) the country where the accusation lies.  He may have also already spent considerable funds on defense work and investigative efforts of his own.  Unfortunately, he also may have made pro se, and unsuccessful, efforts at resolving his Red Notice.

The client in this situation is exhausted, frustrated, and angry, and wants the Red Notice removed- now.  It can be difficult to explain to the client that his challenge will take time to prepare, perhaps more time than he would like.  But once the attorney explains the reasons for that timetable, the client will likely not only not mind it, but will fully support it.

Why does the first submission for relief to INTERPOL need to be the best possible?  Here’s why:

1.  First impressions matter.  Assuming that the same commission members are still sitting from the time of the first application for relief, they very well may recall your case and the fact that they already decided against you.  This unnecessarily steepens the slope in an already uphill battle against your client.

2.  Incomplete and unprofessional work requires “clean-up” work.  No one wants to be in the position of submitting an ill-prepared package, only to have it denied, and then later seek relief again on similar grounds once the nvestigation of the client’s case is complete.

3.  INTERPOL may deny successive applications for relief based simply on the existence of previous submissions.  INTERPOL’s rules allow for the refusal to review claims for relief if they are substantially similar to previous claims, or if they are so numerous as to be considered abusive of INTERPOL’s processes.  This consideration is particularly relevant if the attorney is representing a previously pro se client.

If these valid reasons for taking a measured and considered approach to preparing a client’s case are presented to the client, then it is much more likely that the client will be a temporal ally instead of demanding quick, but ineffective, action.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.



I’m still thinking about the topic of the last post:  FIFA’s historic donation to INTERPOL.  The donation is meant to be used to prevent future crimes by training players, officials, and fans about the dangers of illegal betting and match-fixing.  It is not for the purpose of investigation of the crimes themselves.

Does this mean that criminal defense attorneys with clients who are prone to illegal betting should advise our clients to rest easy?

Alas, no.

Remember, INTERPOL still has in its arsenal the INTERPOL Major Event Support Team (IMEST), which is available for aiding in the investigation and arrests of persons accused of crime surrounding major sporting events.  And should we need proof of INTERPOL’s zeal or effectiveness in investigating sports related illegal betting, simply look back to its 2010 World Cup operation “SOGA III,” which led to over 5,000 people across Asia being arrested.  

The only arrests that will be avoided due to FIFA’s donation will be those that do not happen because the goal behind the donation has been met:  people have been educated, trained, and warned to the point that the illegal activity does not occur.

We’ll see how that goes.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.