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.

In the last post, we began a discussion on the issue of confidentiality in requests for Red Notice removals to the CCF.

When a Red Notice subject requests removal of a Red Notice, he is obliged to explain to the CCF why he is entitled to relief, and that explanation often involves reference to illegal action taken by officials in the INTERPOL member country seeking to capture him.

Naturally, many Red Notice subjects who seek Red Notice removal have left behind not only a corruptly obtained criminal charge and corrupt local officials, but they have also left behind family and friends about whom they are concerned.  The Red Notice subjects are often reluctant to disclose information regarding corruption, because those same corrupt officials are also capable of taking action against the subject’s family or friends.

This is where the issue of confidential information in an application requires some thought and analysis.

The CCF advises as to confidentiality issues on INTERPOL’s website, and confirms that all requests are confidential, and will not be recorded in INTERPOL’s databases, or be used to assist in international police searches. It clarifies, however, that:

The Commission may nevertheless need to communicate some information to the INTERPOL General Secretariat or the National Central Bureaus in order to obtain information, which is necessary for the processing of a request.

Experience tells us that the CCF can and does reach out to National Central Bureaus (NCB’s), and not only to verify court rulings and case status. There are also times when the CCF explains in some detail the arguments that have been asserted by Red Notice subjects in an effort to learn the NCB’s perspective on those matters. Obviously, some Red Notice subjects would prefer for such arguments, and the evidence offered in support of those arguments, NOT to be brought to the attention of the NCBs. For example, if a subject has fled a country where a bogus criminal charge has been filed as the result of political persecution, that subject would be reasonable to believe that the persecutors, who are connected with law enforcement officials, may also persecute their family members. In this situation, a subject has to make the difficult decision to disclose information and request heightened confidentiality, while also possibly risking a negative effect on the CCF’s review of the matter, as addressed by the CCF here:

However, any item of information specifically identified by the Applicant as confidential will not be communicated. This may be detrimental to the Applicant, as it restricts the Commission’s ability to fully process a request.

Therefore, in such instances when a subject does request heightened confidentiality, the subject must rely on the CCF’s request chamber members, all of whom are attorneys, to evaluate the application based upon the evidence submitted, with an eye toward individual protection and and the ability to appreciate the very real dangers that can accompany a request for protection to the CCF.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Why would a Red Notice subject want a request for removal of that notice to remain confidential? If you were a wanted person who was innocent, wouldn’t you want to shout it from the rooftops, for everyone to hear? The answers to these questions are more nuanced than one might initially think.

By the time most Red Notice subjects seek assistance with the removal of a Red Notice, they have already endured multiple, ongoing hardships. They have often faced false or inflated criminal charges in jurisdictions where a fair trial is unattainable. Sometimes they have had civil disputes that became criminal because their opponent bribed local officials. Other times, they were charged criminally because they opposed the ruling political party in some way.

Very frequently, they say at some point during our initial meeting, “I know this sounds crazy, but…”

And the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t sound crazy. There is almost a recipe for every type of false or inflated charge that is prosecuted. That recipe almost always includes more than one person in power with an agenda that includes, or requires, the maintenance of criminal charges against individuals who would serve as obstacles to their goals. It may be as simple as a local police officer and prosecutor who filed a criminal complaint after being bribed. It may be as complicated as an entire national administration dedicated to keeping an oligarchy in power.

Regardless of the corruption model, a Red Notice subject often fears retribution when seeking relief from an improperly issued Red Notice. Even though the subject himself may have escaped an unsafe venue, he often has the worry of the family and business associates he left behind. It is not at all unusual for remaining family and associates to be harassed and intimidated by authorities, both officially and unofficially.

For these reasons, Red Notice subjects are often extremely concerned about confidentiality in their requests for relief to the CCF.

Submitting a request for relief to CCF requires a showing of violations of rule and law, which may require a showing of information that could endanger people back home. While the CCF’s rules do provide for confidentiality, there are situations where the CCF may wish to verify information with the country that requested the notice in the first place. Accordingly, applicants often have to decide whether to send the CCF information that would assist their cases, or to keep that information private in the interest of family safety.

In the next post, we’ll look at the issue of absolute confidentiality in the context of a request for relief to the CCF.

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.

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.

A reader recently sent in the following comment and question:

I have a diffusion notice against me , which was issued by the Indian government. This was done purely to harass me , using the high influence of politics. The case I was wrongly implicated in, is now resolved. So is there a way that we apply to remove the name from the diffusion notice? This  is causing me terrible stress in the airport everytime I enter the airport.

The reader’s experience with difficulty and delay when travelling is a common one.  Even after the underlying grounds for a Red Notice or diffusion have been resolved, many countries fail to remove the original information from their systems.  This failure is a violation of INTERPOL’s rules and make the offending member country subject to sanctions by INTERPOL.

When a member country does not advise INTERPOL that an underlying warrant or conviction is no longer a valid grounds for a Red Notice or diffusion, the subject of the notice or diffusion is forced to either hire an attorney to assit him or to try to remove it himself.  Of course, it never hurts to first request that the member country execute the removal itself, as it is bound to do by its INTERPOL obligations. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 


I recently read an online inquiry by a Red Notice subject who had been advised that her Red Notice was “in the process of being removed” by the prosecuting attorney.  The subject wondered how long the removal would take.

Every INTERPOL member country has its own National Central Bureau (NCB), which acts as a liaison with INTERPOL itself.  Red Notices are issued at the request of the member countries, and the information contained in the Red Notice, as well as the information contained in the files kept by INTERPOL, actually belongs to the member country that supplies that information to INTERPOL. That ownership was discussed in more detail here (back when INTERPOL had only 188 member countries.)

The requesting member country may decide to publicize the Red Notice or not, and also may decide to withdraw the information at any point.  For example, if a Red Notice is no longer needed because a person has been acquitted or an underlying charging document has been found to be invalid, the member country has the capability of instructing its NCB to arrange the removal of its information from INTERPOL’s files.

Once such a decision has been made, the removal can and should be almost immediate.  If the member country is efficient, the subject should not need an attorney to facilitate that process.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

 

 

 

 

How many bribes does it take to get a Red Notice removed?  While this sounds like the lead-in to a bad joke, for many people facing Red Notices, it is unfortunately a matter that bears consideration.

Let me be clear:  never once have I read, observed, or been advised by anyone about any bribery efforts on the part of anyone who works for INTERPOL.  In fact, to the contrary, in the cases to which I am privy, I have found that INTERPOL’s staff members have gone out of their way to avoid any appearance of impropropriety.

The issue of bribery, when it arises, inevitably appears in the judicial and executive branches of government of the member countries that request Red Notices.  Subjects report requests for bribes from National Central Bureau (“NCB”) officials (who are employees of the member countries, not of INTERPOL), arresting officers, judges, prosecuting attorneys, and other judicial and law enforcement officials.

Red Notice subjects have complained regarding the issue of bribery in so many member countries that the question has to be asked at some point, are they all lying?  While any person charged with a crime arguably has a motive to lie, should we not also recognize that these individual, un-verifiable reports take on credibility after they are made repeatedly from different sources at different times under different circumstances?

Member countries interact with INTERPOL via their own governmental officials who work at NCBs, which serve as the liaisons between the countries and INTERPOL.  This arrangement ensures that the people who are in the best position to determine whether a country’s laws have been followed- that country’s own law enforcement officials- serve as the gatekeepers between the country and INTERPOL. 

It also also creates opportunity for non-INTERPOL staff to introduce corruption into INTERPOL’s processes. Every member country’s NCB is run by a law enforcement agency assigned by the member country itself.  It is also staffed by employees of the member country, not INTERPOL.  The NCB officials are therefore in a position to decide whether to request a new Red Notice, or to request that one be removed.  In the more corrupt member countries, officials who are so inclined may seek bribes in exchange for either the issuance or removal of the Notice.

If the claims of some Red Notice subjects are true, the subjects are left to decide whether to:

  1. pay a bribe, which is likely a crime in both the country where they are wanted and the country in which they reside, 
  2. blow the whistle, or 
  3. say nothing.  

If they either pay the bribe or report the bribery efforts, they further endanger themselves.  If they do not, they fight the Red Notice while playing by the rules, even though the corrupt member country does not.

Quite a quandry.  

In the next posts, more on this topic.

As always, questions and comments are welcomed.