Red Notices issued by the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) are an important global tool in tracking and arresting criminals who have fled the jurisdiction of a state.
But Red Notices can be open to corruption. They are not always issued on a genuine legal basis, and there may be certain circumstances where a notice should be removed or amended.
There are a number of methods that can be employed to challenge Red Notices.
What is a Red Notice?
A Red Notice is an electronic alert published by the INTERPOL General Secretariat seeking the detention, arrest or general restriction of movement of a wanted person. Generally, a Red Notice is issued at the request of a National Central Bureau (NCB), which is the outward-facing branch of a country’s law enforcement that liaises with INTERPOL and other international police departments.
It is one of seven different colour notices that can be issued by INTERPOL. These include Blue Notices, which seek information in relation to a person’s identity or their connection to a crime, and Yellow Notices, which are aimed at locating missing persons. However, Red Notices are overwhelmingly the most frequent type of notice issued by INTERPOL.
It is the issue of a Red Notice which places a person onto INTERPOL’s internationally notorious “Most Wanted” list. In order to obtain a Red Notice, a duly authorised arrest warrant must have been issued in accordance with the laws of the country seeking the creation of the Red Notice.
Potential impacts of a Red Notice
There are several flaws with the issue of INTERPOL Red Notices, most significantly the potential for the system to be abused by corrupt governments and executive powers.
For example, according to the Strengthening Respect for Human Rights, Strengthening INTERPOL report published by Fair Trials International, it is not unheard of for corrupt regimes to issue Red Notices in relation to political opponents or refugees from political or religious persecution.
This is despite the fact that according to INTERPOL’s Rules for the Processing of Data (2012) Red Notices are not to be issued for:
- Offences deemed to be related to behavioural or cultural norms.
- Offences deemed to be private matters/disputes or family issues.
- Offences arising from violations of administrative law.
Further, the rules require that the offence of which the person has been accused must carry a minimum sentence of at least two years’ imprisonment, and that person must have been sentenced to at least a six-month prison term in the issuing country.
A Red Notice can technically be issued for a fairly minor offence, but despite this can have a significant effect on the employment prospects, residency status or freedom of movement of the person, even if they are not subject to arrest.
So how can a Red Notice be removed once it has been imposed?
Methods for challenging a Red Notice
There are three commonly accepted methods for challenging Red Notices:
- Requesting that the issuing country remove the information provided to INTERPOL supporting the Red Notice. The success of this request depends entirely on the legal system of the country which has issued the Red Notice, and should not be attempted without obtaining appropriate jurisdictional legal advice.
- Requesting that the authorities of the country in which the subject resides delete the information. This occurs only in unusual circumstances, and again should not be attempted without proper legal advice, potentially from an expert in the legal systems of both the issuing state and the state of residence.
- Writing to the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF) and requesting the deletion of the Red Notice. This is a highly specialised area and advice should certainly be obtained from a qualified and experienced legal professional before this step is attempted.
If an attempt at having a Red Notice wholly deleted is unsuccessful, the CCF may elect to modify, caveat or make an addendum to the Red Notice for the attention of law enforcement agencies internationally. Alternatively, it may be determined that the Red Notice is to remain in situ.
There is no right of appeal to the decision of the CCF.
Red Notices are a powerful but sometimes unwieldy tool in INTERPOL’s arsenal when attempting to secure international cooperation between law enforcement agencies.
Given the potential consequences of a Red Notice, particularly in a global system with a significant disparity in legal ethics and principles, it is important to be aware of the methods by which it may be deleted or otherwise modified.