One of the most frequent questions people have about INTERPOL Red Notices is how a Red Notice can be issued in a case where the prosecution was politically motivated. The question is a valid one, particularly given INTERPOL’s prohibition of involvement in political cases. INTERPOL specifies in one of its fact sheets, here, that:

 

The General Secretariat can only publish a notice that adheres to all the proper legal
conditions. For example, a notice will not be published if it violates INTERPOL’s Constitution, which forbids the Organization from undertaking activities of a political, military, religious
or racial character.

 

This statement is not entirely accurate, only because the General Secretariat does not always know the true nature of the cases behind the Red Notice requests that it receives from its member countries.

Despite the prohibition against political cases, practitioners are routinely approached by individuals who are being politically prosecuted for criminal offenses, and listed with INTERPOL as Red Notice subjects. The reality is that politically motivated Red Notices are, in fact, published.

Unless a Red Notice subject is particularly well-known, it is quite possible for the underlying political nature of the Red Notice to be unknown to INTERPOL. Only when the subject discover the Red Notice and works with his/her attorneys to inform INTERPOL about the true nature of the case does INTERPOL learn that it should not be involved in the matter.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

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A attorney/reader recently sent in this question on the topic of publicly available information on Red Notices, in relation to an individual wanted by authorities in a particular country:

My question is whether there is any tabulation of Red Notices that have been revoked/rescinded because of the Article 3 political repression nature of the issuance. I am interested in the total overall and the specific number related to (X country) –for any recent time frame.

The reader refers to INTERPOL’s constitution, Article 3, which prohibits INTERPOL from becoming involved in matters of a predominantly political nature.

And the response is this: the general public does not have access to the precise number of Red Notices that have been removed from INTERPOL’s databases from any particular country or for any particular reason unless INTERPOL decides to publish that information. In some annual reports by the CCF, the Commission has released figures for the grounds raised in requests for removal of data, but those reports have not specified the countries from which relief was sought. It has released numbers of cases in which relief was sought from particular countries, but without knowing the total number of cases in which a Red Notice was issued, it is impossible to attach any statistical significance to the number of cases for which relief was sought.

Additionally, given that INTERPOL’s member countries do not have to publish the Red Notices within the public domain, there is no publicly available data on the total number of Red Notices that any particular  country has requested or received.

The takeaway: while we do have some information regarding the number and type of cases wherein individuals assert violations of Article 3 of INTERPOL’s constitution, it’s not enough to serve as meaningful evidence of trends in violations. However, INTERPOL does have the capacity to release figures on that topic, should it choose to do so, within the context of an annual report or in response to a request for information.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

A Turkish court has requested a Red Notice against reporter Can Dündar, the former chief editor of the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet. Authorities charged him with espionage in 2016, alleging that he disclosed state secrets in the course of his reporting.

As reported here, the Committee to Protect Journalists (“CPJ”) has criticized Turkey’s request as being politically motivated, and has also requested that INTERPOL deny the request.

The CPJ’s criticism comes at  a time when Turkey is on the defensive about many of its Red Notices and Red Notice requests, particularly those involving journalists being charged with terrorism, espionage, and similar charges based upon the content of their writings. INTERPOL is reportedly examining scores of Red Notices with the goal of weeding out politically motivated notices; this activity is being undertaken amidst the international community’s criticisim of Turkey’s recent INTERPOL abuses.

As INTERPOL’s efforts to investigate the subject notices were reportedly contemplated prior to November of 2017, it is reasonable to anticipate that significant progress should be made in advance of INTERPOL’s general assembly this year in Dubai from November 16-21.

And though it shouldn’t be necessary, it is also reasonable to expect that INTERPOL would make an unequivocal statement regarding its stance on the criminalization of responsible journalism, particularly in light of such activity in INTERPOL’s member countries such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

Let’s start with the specific good news: Fair Trials International obtained the removal of a Red Notice for current leader of the World Uyghur Congress, Dolkun Isa, who fled China in the 1990s and was pursued by Chinese authorities through INTERPOL for charges that were widely viewed as being politically motivated.

Mr. Isa, a dissident from China,  was wanted for alleged terrorist activities, as reported here.  The Chinese government naturally disagreed with the decision, expressing its dissatisfaction here.

It is always welcome news to find that a victim of a politically motivated prosecution has succeeded in removing a Red Notice – it means his life can normalize a bit. He can travel without the worry of an INTERPOL-related detention; his financial activity is simpler and less scrutinized; and he can search for work without having to explain that, even though he is wanted by INTERPOL, he is a law-abiding citizen.

The fact that Mr. Isa’s noticed originated from China, and that INTERPOL removed it, is also good news for those who have wondered about the effect of INTERPOL’s new president on the organization’s decision-making process. INTERPOL’ current president is China’s Vice Minister of Public Security Meng Hongwei. He entered his position amid public concern about his commitment to preserving INTERPOL’s commitment to human rights. The concerns were not baseless, given China’s human rights abuse record. However, as reported here, while some observers believed that his position was more ceremonial and less influential over Red Notice issuance, others thought that Mr. Hongwei’s presidency was cause for alarm, given China’s human rights history.

The decision in Mr. Isa’s case demonstrates that the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files has both the willingness and the autonomy to issue decisions contrary to the desire of the Chinese government, irrespective of the organization’s leadership.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

As was discussed here last Thursday, Russian officials publicly reported that INTERPOL was considering Russia’s third request to provide assistance in locating and apprehending William Browder.  

INTERPOL has twice rejected Russia’s requests based on the political nature of the case, and it now appears that the third time will not be a charm for Russian authorities.

INTERPOL’s press office responded to Red Notice Law Journal’s inquiry on this subject, stating that

[T]he situation with regards to Mr Browder remains unchanged. As per the previous decisions by both the CCF and the INTERPOL General Secretariat, no information about Mr Browder is contained in INTERPOL’s databases.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

Russia’s preoccupation with obtaining a Red Notice against William Browder continues.  I first addressed this issue here.  For those who haven’t followed the case, William Browder is the chief executive officer and co-founder of the investment fund Hermitage Capital Management, and a noted critic of Vladimir Putin.  When his attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, allegedly uncovered and reported a massive tax refund fraud in Russia, Magnitsky was detained and charged with what Browder and others consider to be retaliatory charges. Magnitsky died while he was detained.  

Russian authorities initially circulated a diffusion in Browder’s name, and later sought his location and arrest through INTERPOL’s channels, presumably in the form of a Red Notice.

In May of last year, INTERPOL took the fairly unusual step of issuing a public statement regarding its decision on the diffusion in the Browder case.  It considered the case to be predominantly political in nature.

Russia later made a second request for INTERPOL’s assistance in locating and arresting Mr. Browder based on new charges.  In response, INTERPOL issued a second statement which characterized the “new” charges of “qualified swindling” against Mr. Browder as being covered by its previous decision.  Interestingly enough, INTERPOL’s statement led with the caption:

INTERPOL cannot be used by the Russian Federation to seek the arrest of Mr William Browder

Despite that decision, Russia has now requested for the third time that INTERPOL become involved in the Browder case.  The Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation issued a statement on June 19, 2014, asserting that the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s files agreed to reconsider the question of the international search for Browder.  Whether that statement is valid remains to be seen.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

In the last post, I addressed the latest events in the case of Michael Misick, former Premier of Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI).  Today’s post is a continuation of that discussion and an update of a related post from earlier this year.

INTERPOL’s constitution forbids its involvement in politically motivated cases

Regardless of that fact that Mr. Misick’s political asylum claim was denied in Brazil, it would be surprising if he did not also challenge his Red Notice directly to INTERPOL on political grounds as well.

Article 3 of INTERPOL’s constitution establishes that

            It is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or

            activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.

Given that the allegations against Mr. Misick stem from his tenure in office, one might assume that the question of INTERPOL’s involvement should end there:  activities conducted in a political office are necessarily political. 

However, the analysis of whether a Red Notice is politically motivated requires a more thorough review of the underlying charges and Red Notice application.  The question of political motivation requires a study of all the circumstances involving the allegations, as well as a review of the political landscape and history of the requesting country. Additionally, the relationship between the Red Notice subject and the requesting country must be considered along with their respective activities.  

If the predominant reason for the Red Notice is the accomplishment of the issuing country’s political goals, then the Red Notice very well may be politically motivated to an unacceptable level.  However, if the true overriding basis for the Red Notice is the underlying criminal charge, then a challenge based on the political motivation of the Red Notice likely will not succeed. 

TCI responded to allegations of political motivation behind charges

Earlier in 2012, the TCI government addressed concerns about the reason behind the issuance of the Red Notice. Mr. Misick’s supporters had  speculated that the notice against him was politically motivated based upon a public argument in March of this year between Mr. Misick and Governor Ric Todd.  The argument was precipitated by Mr. Misick’s criticism of Mr. Todd.  

Governor’s Office spokesman Neil Smith, in response to those allegations, reportedly stated that the country had applied for the Notice back in February.  Therefore, goes the logic, the Notice could not have been based upon a spat that occurred in March.

While the timing and manner of the Red Notice issuance is yet unclear, one thing is certain:  any Red Notice challenge by Mr. Misick’s attorneys will certainly include evidence of his criticism of, and later argument with, Governor Todd.  The success of such a challenge will depend on the strength and validity of the documentation of the underlying criminal charges.

** Note to readers:  Red Notice Law Journal placed a request for verification of the grounds for the Red Notice in Mr. Misick’s name with INTERPOL’s press office.  As of today’s date, no response has been forthcoming.

How could INTERPOL shield itself from being used as a political weapon against a corrupt country’s own people?  In the last post, I referenced an article by CNN writer Libby Lewis entitled, “Are some countries abusing Interpol?”  In the article, Lewis raises numerous questions, one of which is whether a more in-depth review process should occur prior to INTERPOL’s acceptance of Red Notice requests.

As it stands, INTERPOL relies on member countries to be aware of and observe the rules requiring that Red Notice requests be made legally, in compliance with the country’s own laws and INTERPOL’s rules.  A Red Notice request is processed with a presumption of validity and remains so unless it is challenged specifically, or otherwise brought to INTERPOL’s attention as being improper.

Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama reportedly requested a revision of that process, and his is a good idea.  For INTERPOL, however, the thought may be rather daunting.  Imagine having to review the validity of thousands of Red Notice requests, particularly when they originate from 188 countries across the globe, all with differing legal systems and law enforcement practices.  Where is one to start?

Here’s an idea.  Start by amending the rules and governing texts of INTERPOL to allow for the existence, funding, and operation of a small human rights monitoring division.  Charge that division with the limited duty of studying and documenting human rights violation activity among member countries.  When a member country with a questionable history of violating human rights requests a Red Notice from INTERPOL, require additional information and checks from the country to guard against improper requests being granted.

All member countries must contribute financially in order to be members of INTERPOL, and as discussed here before, INTERPOL occasionally benefits from other monetary contributions.  Funding such a division is within easy reach.  An amendment providing for a human rights monitoring division, with the accompanying appropriation of funding, would allow INTERPOL to do the one thing that would allow it to continue serving as a law enforcement aid while maintaining a sense of integrity:  trust but verify. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.