INTERPOL’s CCF (the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files) has made its most recent Annual Report available online, here.  In the 2017 Annual Report, which was officially published at the 2018 General Assembly meeting, the CCF covered a variety of topics, from recent statutory changes to the duties of the two chambers.

Among the most interesting topics for an INTERPOL practitioner is the CCF’s treatment of some member countries who have attempted to circumvent the CCF’s rulings on previous cases. In paragraphs 57 and 58 of the report, the Commission recognizes that certain countries do, in fact, violate the spirit and effect of those rulings:

57. Misuse of INTERPOL’s channels: The Commission dealt with cases where the sources of data
have sent a diffusion to INTERPOL members to request the arrest of an individual, whereas a
request for a red notice has previously been refused. It also processed requests which
highlighted the use of the SLTD database where a diffusion or a notice to arrest a person was
considered not to comply with INTERPOL’s rules.
58. These cases raised questions of compliance with INTERPOL’s rules that have been addressed by
the Commission and the General Secretariat. In such cases, the data concerned (if they were
still recorded in INTERPOL’s files when the Commission studied them) are deleted, and the
INTERPOL member countries which received the information are also informed that INTERPOL’s
channels cannot be used in the case concerned.

The good news is that the CCF is acting consistently when it discovers that a member country has improperly utlized a diffusion (which it can circulate itself, without General Secretariat involvement) after a Red Notice has been refused by the General Secretariat.

The bad news is that, in order for these types of violations to be discovered, the unlucky subject of the diffusion often has to discover his or her diffusion status, and this discovery often occurs during travel, and it may lead to detention. Even a brief detention is frightening and disruptive of one’s life.

So the next question is, aside from deleting the diffusion and (again) informing the member country that INTERPOL’s channels cannot be sued in that case, what consequence do these countries face?

As always, comments and questions are welcomed.

As we await the publication of the CCF’s annual report from last year, it is worth reviewing the speech given by the Commission’s Chairman,  Vitalie Pirlog, at INTERPOL’s 2017 annual meeting as a means of providing continuity in the analysis of the upcoming report.

Mr. Pirlog focused at that time on the changes brought about by the passage of the Statute of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files, including new time limits for the CCF’s decisions, the change from a single chamber to a dual chamber,  and the challenges faced by the Commission in relation to its dealings with National Central Bureaus (“NCBs”).

While the Commission is now tasked with meeting deadlines for its decisions, it also relies on NCBs to respond quickly and succinctly to inquiries related to requests for removal. The speech indicates that while most NCBs respond in an appropriate fashion, some have not.

For example, Mr. Pirlog found it necessary to remind member countries that the organization’s asylum policy was meant to be utilized in accordance with  international law and the protections afforded to people with protected status.  This reminder came at a time when INTERPOL had already implemented its asylum policy, and was developing the policy under President Meng Hongwei, who sought to exclude Red Notice subjects from the policy’s protections if their countries considered them to be terrorists. The danger with this nuance, of course, was that protected persons could still be subject to persecution with INTERPOL’s assistance if the requesting countries improperly categorized them as terrorists.

In that situation, as with others faced by the Commission, the Commission is obliged to weigh individual rights and the need for legal protection against member countries’ expressed need for law enforcement.

It is reasonable to expect that the next CCF Annual report (which I understand will be released this month) would include an update on the NCBs’ collective response to Mr. Pirlog’s request for heightened recognition of legitimate protective status claims.

As always, questions and comments are welcomed.

 

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.

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.

It was with great dismay that I read this article . It seems that under the administration of Donald Trump, United States officials are now gathering intelligence on the public activity of journalists, bloggers, and other people that the administration considers to be influencers on matters of import to the Department of Homeland Security.

While obviously one hopes that this kind of activity is not for nefarious purposes, it’s not difficult to imagine that a president who has been so sensitive to criticism, as has Mr. Trump, could only be gathering this information for purposes of punishing, prosecuting, or targeting individuals who write information that is harmful to his ego, his policies, his desires, or simply his feelings.

Tyler Houlton, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, asserted in a tweet that the monitoring activity was simply standard procedure, and that any  suggestion otherwise was “fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists.”

In other words, we’re crazy if we question this monitoring of the free press, despite the current political crackdown on journalists that we’ve seen around the world, particularly in Turkey, where the administration has utilized INTERPOL’s tools in the furtherance of its prosecution of journalists.

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.

 

Under the leadership of its current Chairman,  Vitalie Pirlog, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (“CCF”) has proven in this year’s decisions that it is serious about holding National Central Bureaus to their obligations under INTERPOL’s rules.

In his speech at this year’s General Assembly, Chairman Pirlog reminded INTERPOL’s membership that the CCF often seeks information from their National Central Bureaus (“NCBs”). These responses are essential to the CCF’s ability to make decisions about requests for removal of Red Notices from the requesting country. Mr. Pirlog reminded member countries that timely responses were particularly important, given the CCF’s new statute that generally requires a response to be issued within four to nine months.

INTERPOL has always provided the required assistance to its members’ NCBs, but historically, the NCBs have not always been strictly observant of their duties to provided requested information, or to provide it timely. The CCF has apparently had enough of that, and is holding the members countries’ NCB’s feet to the fire.

Based on the CCF’s decision letters that have been received by this practitioner, it is clear that:

  • The CCF is generally adhering to the new time limitations for issuing decisions, with some decisions being issued even earlier than required;
  • The CCF is demanding cooperation from National Central Bureaus, and when they do not respond in a timely fashion, the CCF is proceeding to make a decision based on the information it has, rather than waiting or continuing the matter until the NCB provides a full response; and
  •  The decisions being issued by the CCF are generally accompanied by a reasoned explanation, detailing the Commission’s steps and considerations taken in reaching its decision.

These factors are critical to the CCF’s efforts at demonstrating transparency, and allow applicants to both appreciate the nature of the process, as well as to recognize that they were given a “fair shake” in INTERPOL’s processes. One would hope that the more lax NCBs recognize the shift in culture at the CCF, and become more compliant as a result. Whether they do or not, the CCF will benefit from the fact that it is protecting INTERPOL’s interests in transparency and the furtherance of human rights.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Last month, a Swedish journalist of Turkish descent, Hamza Yalçin was finally released from detention in a Spanish jail awaiting an  extradition decision. Turkey has requested and received an INTERPOL Red Notice based upon an underlying charge of “terrorism” and insulting the Turkish president.

If he had been extradited, Mr. Yalçin would have faced over 22 years in prison for insulting the president of Turkey.  The journalist reportedly received asylum from Sweden many years ago based on his previous political activity in Turkey.   The facts that Mr.  Yalçin is a journalist and that he is an asylee from Turkey both render the Red Notice against him rather curious: INTERPOL has a policy in place that was enacted for the purpose of protecting asylees from further political persecution by the countries from which they fled, and notices against journalists are often requested based on their criticism of the requesting regime.

This is not the first time that Turkey has utilized its access to INTERPOL’s tools to aid in the prosecution of a journalist.  Earlier this year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that Germany has had to modify its policies in dealing with Turkey, and that such abuses against journalists and critics cannot be tolerated.

Yalçin was released late last month, but not because the Red Notice was dropped: he reportedly was released because Spanish law did not allow for the extradition of  an asylee.

INTERPOL has an opportunity to highlight its commitment to human rights by subjecting Turkish Red Notice requests to additional scrutiny before issuing them, particularly where the subject is an author or journalist.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

A reader recently contacted Red Notice Law Journal to inquire about INTERPOL’s role in child kidnapping cases. This question  is unfortunately more common than one might imagine, and is likely to become more so as we continue to evolve into a more and more transient world.

INTERPOL’s involvement in child kidnapping, or abduction, cases, primarily involves Red Notices for the person accused of wrongfully taking the child out of an INTERPOL member country, and Yellow Notices for the child who is thought to have been wrongfully taken.

A Red Notice is issued when a person is wanted for a crime. This means that, until an arrest warrant (or its equivalent) for a criminal act has been issued for a person accused of kidnapping a child, INTERPOL cannot be used to assist in finding the accused person.

A Yellow Notice is issued for missing persons who have been kidnapped or have disappeared without explanation. No criminal charge is necessarily required for this type of notice to be issued regarding a missing child. For parents seeking the whereabouts of their children, even if there is no actual criminal charge pending against anyone for taking the child, a Yellow Notice may be requested through local law enforcement authorities.

Certainly, there are times when a Red Notice is improperly requested by a parent with the assistance of local law enforcement, often when a custodial parent has moved in compliance with a court order out of the country. In such instances, local law enforcement and INTERPOL may have no way of knowing that the Red Notice request was improperly requested until the custodial parent learns of the notice and informs INTERPOL of the actual nature of the case.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.