New Report from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists Reveals Abuse of Interpol Red Notices for Political Purposes

The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) was created to facilitate cross-border police cooperation, even where diplomatic relations between particular countries do not exist.  Unlike the majority of law enforcement agencies,  INTERPOL agents do not make arrests, and there is no such thing as an INTERPOL jail.  Instead, the purpose of INTERPOL is to serve as a liaison between the law enforcement agencies of member countries, helping bridge gaps in language, culture, and bureaucracy to effectively combat international crime by providing assistance in communications and information-sharing.

One of INTERPOL’s primary tools to further the aim of combatting international crime is their system of “Notices.”  There are seven types of INTERPOL Notices, distinguished by colors.  “Red Notices” contain information on wanted individuals, and may serve as a provisional arrest warrant with a view toward extradition.  According to the United States Attorneys’ Manual, “An INTERPOL Red Notice is the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today.” (Title 9, Criminal Resource Manual, 611).

Given the impact of an INTERPOL Notice, there is a procedure in place to regulate how such Notices are issued.  Generally, according to Article 3 of INTERPOL’s Constitution, “It is strictly forbidden for [INTERPOL] to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious, or racial character.”  INTERPOL’s Factsheet on Notices states, “the General Secretariat can only publish a notice if it is satisfied that all the conditions for processing the information have been fulfilled.” (INTERPOL Factsheet).

Despite these safeguards, a five-month investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reveals that in countries such as Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and Tunisia, Red Notices are being used to punish political opponents of the current regimes.  The article (“Interpol’s Red Notices Used by Some to Pursue Political Dissenters, Opponents“), found that roughly a quarter of the Red Notices they analyzed “were from countries with severe restrictions on political rights and civil liberties” and roughly half “were from nations deemed corrupt by international transparency observers.”  

The implications of such misuse of INTERPOL Red Notices are grave for both the individuals named in the Notices, as well as the legitimacy of the regimes themselves.  If you feel you have been named in an INTERPOL Red Notice in error, or for a political purpose, and would like to consult with an attorney, we invite you to contact us.

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