Interpol: How to challenge an international arrest warrant (red notices and diffusions)?
Interpol is an international network of police forces from countries all over the world. The goal of Interpol is to assist police forces in different countries to cooperate in order to solve crimes. Every member country has their own Interpol branch called a National Central Bureau (NCB).
Notices are international alerts used by police to communicate information about crimes, wanted persons and threats. Interpol uses eight types of notices; red, blue, green, yellow, black, orange and purple. Seven of these notices are colour-coded by their function.
- red notice: to seek location and arrest of a person with a view to extradition
- blue notice: to locate or obtain information regarding a person of interest in a criminal investigation
- green notice: to warn about person’s criminal activities if that person is considered to be a possible threat to public safety
- yellow notice: to locate a missing person or to identify a person unable to identity him-/herself
- black notice: to seek information on unidentified bodies
- orange notice: to warn of an event, a person, an object or a process representing an imminent threat and danger to persons or property
- Interpol-United Nations Security Council special notice: to inform Interpol's members that an individual or an entity is subject to UN sanctions
Publication of notices
The General Secretariat of Interpol publishes notices either on its own initiative, or based on requests from National Central Bureaus (NCB) or authorised international entities. All notices are published on Interpol’s secure website. Extracts of notices may also be published on Interpol's public website if the requesting country agrees.
The General Secretariat of Interpol can only publish a notice that meets all legal requirements. For example, a notice will not be published if it violates Interpol’s constitution, which forbids Interpol from undertaking activities of a political, military, religious or racial character. The General Secretariat can refuse to publish a notice that it considers unadvisable or a potential risk.
Most well known is the red notice which is the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant. A red notice is an international alert to seek the location and arrest of a wanted person for the purpose of extradition. A red notice informs law enforcement officers in one country that those of another country are seeking the arrest of a particular person.
The alert includes two main types of information:
- identity details (physical description, photograph, fingerprints, identity document numbers etc.) and
- judicial information (the criminal offence with which the person is charged, references to the laws under which the charge is made or conviction was obtained; references to the arrest warrant or court sentence etc.)
Similar to the notice, a diffusion is issued for the same purposes as notices but sent directly by a member country to a country of their choice. A diffusion is like a red notice an international alert which notifies law enforcement authorities in one country that those of another country are seeking the arrest of a specific person. Other than a red notice a diffusion is not published by Interpol at the country’s request. Diffusions and red notices can have many of the same effects.
In case of an outstanding red notice or a diffusion there is a significant risk of being arrested, both at home and when traveling. In many countries, border agents and police officers are required to arrest persons subject to red notices. Furthermore one can be confronted with the closure of bank-accounts. An outstanding arrest warrant may affect your status regarding employment, professional status and personal reputation.
Subject to a red notice or diffusion; how to know?
It is not always easy to find out whether or not you are subject to a red notice or diffusion. In order to find out you may consider next steps:
check the ‘wanted persons’ list on the website of Interpol
However, even if one is not listed on this page, a red notice may be issued, because only some red notices are published on this page. The other alerts are available only on Interpol’s restricted networks which are visible only to national law enforcement authorities. Diffusions are never published on Interpol’s website, so if you are subject to a diffusion you will not find this information on the website of Interpol.
ask the police or local judicial authorities
Sometimes contact with the local police or local judicial authorities may provide the answer. There may not be a formal procedure provided for this, but in some cases it is possible to obtain answers on an informal basis. However, one must be aware that the police may not be allowed to consult Interpol records and disclose information to you. Therefore, even if the police tells you that there is no information about you on file, this is not conclusive, as they may not have access to the relevant Interpol database.
send a request to the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files
It is possible to send a request to the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF) asking for access to your file. The CCF is based in Lyon (France). The CCF handles requests from (the lawyers of) individuals in order to gain access to Interpol-information about them, or to challenge such information. In order to answer a request the CCF has to consult with the NCB in the relevant country. These proceedings may take some time. In case you can demonstrate that you know there is information on the Interpol's files the CCF may be able to provide access to that information even without authorisation of the NCB.
The attorneys of Kaarls Criminal Defense Lawyers / Strafrechtadvocaten have experience in dealing with international (police) organisations such as Interpol. Our lawyers know what information must be provided. We also know what information is not significant.
How to proceed with a request for the removal of a red notice or diffusion?
You may consider next steps:
contact the judicial authorities in the country which issued the red notice with the request to remove the information
Each country has its own laws and procedures. Our lawyers can make inquiries in the issuing state, preferably through the engagement of local lawyers. We work with local lawyers worldwide.
contact the authorities in the country where you live to ask Interpol to remove your name from its databases
This is not done very often and you will need the help of a local lawyer to pursue this option.
contact the CCF and request to recommend the deletion of your information
This request will need to comply with the admissibility requirements.
Admissibility requirements red notice, diffusion removal requests
It must be said that the rules of Interpol are complex and the best course is to contact one of our lawyers with experience of dealing with Interpol red notices and diffusions.
The nature and grounds of any challenge will vary from case to case, but in summary the following key elements should be considered:
- Article 3 of Interpol’s constitution, which states that it is ‘strictly forbidden’ for Interpol to engage in any activities of a political, religious, military or racial character
- Article 2 of Interpol’s constitution, which requires the organisation to act ‘within the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’
- The Rules on the Processing of Data (RPD), which includes detailed provisions on red notices and diffusions. This is the main rulebook that the CCF applies
- The special policy that applies to individuals who have been recognised as refugees under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
Therefore a red notice or diffusion must be removed because:
- there is (only) a political, religious or racial motivation
- human rights will be violated
A red notice or diffusion must be removed also because the case is not serious enough. This is decided by looking at the length of the sentence. There are two elements:
- there is a conviction already; a red notice may not be 'published' to seek extradition in order to serve a sentence less then six months’ imprisonment.
- there is no conviction yet; a red notice may not be 'published' to seek your return to face prosecution and trial unless the offence in question is punishable by at least two years imprisonment.
Article 83 of the Rules on the Processing of Data sets out specific criteria for 'publishing' red notices. For example 'publication' of a red notice is prohibited:
- the offence in question raises 'controversial' issues relating to behavioural or cultural norms (for example adultery)
- the offence originates from 'a violation of laws or regulations of an administrative nature or deriving from private disputes' (for example offences regarding an unfunded cheque / bounced cheque)
Information to provide with a request for removal of the red notice
Interpol will have to weighs up the ‘political’, 'human rights' and/or 'civil' aspects of a case against the ‘ordinary-law’ (criminal) aspects to see which ‘predominates’ in order to determine whether or not a red notice complies with its constitution and rules. In order to get a removal decision Interpol must be informed about the relevant aspects of the case. Sometimes detailed and well-researched information must be shared with Interpol.
This means that we have to inform Interpol if possible in detail about:
the nature of the offence
What are the charges and underlying facts? For example; is the accusation about organising a riot, but in fact you participated in a peaceful political protest? If possible provide us with evidence (photo's, video's, eye witness statements, (news) reports etc.).
the status of the person concerned
Who are you? What is your political status? Have you been involved in political activities that troubled the requesting country? If possible provide us with information.
the identity of the source of the data
Are there other examples of people oppressed by the requesting country? If possible provide us with evidence (for example court decisions regarding other similar cases, reports of Human Right Watch, Amnesty International or other human rights organisations).
the general context of the case
In case the red notice arises from a civil rather than criminal dispute please provide us with evidence.
risk of torture
If you believe that you there is a risk of torture try to provide us with information and evidence. For instance, there may be reports from international organisations or (human rights) courts saying that people like you are at risk of torture (ethnic groups, political parties, etc.). If you have been granted protection from return to your country because of a risk of this kind then provide us with evidence. If a long time has passed since this decision was made, explain why you think you are still at risk.
Our lawyers know how to deal and how to communicate with Interpol and in particular with the Commission for the Control of Interpol's Files (CCF) in order to prevent that local NCB's, local officials, will misuse or abuse (confidential) information.
Preventive CCF requests
If you expect that an Interpol notice will be issued in the near future and there are serious reasons to believe that the Interpol alert will not be compliant to the rules and regulations of Interpol, we may submit a preventive request at the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF). Preventive requests aimed at blocking any processing in Interpol's files of data sent by national authorities which are likely to send requests for cooperation through Interpol channels. Interpol regulations require that data processed in the Interpol information system must be accurate, relevant and not excessive in relation to there purpose and up to date.
In terms of Article 36 of the Constitution of Interpol, the CCF is an independent body which shall ensure that the processing of personal information is in compliance with the regulations of Interpol. The rules on the control provide that the CCF shall ensure that the rules and operations relating to the processing of personal information by Interpol will not infringe the basic rights to the people concerned, as referred to in Article 2 of the Constitution, which refers in turn to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Specialists in Interpol cases
The attorneys of Kaarls Criminal Defense Lawyers handle complex cases regarding red notices and diffusions.
Our lawfirm can provide you with legal assistance in matters regarding criminal law and extradition law worldwide.