Reforms to Strengthen Interpol

INTERPOL is responsible for locating “wanted” persons for arrest and extradition via its global system of Red Notices. The organisation faces a number of challenges in administering Red Notices, including dealing with different legal systems and potentially corrupt or uncooperative governments. In doing its work, INTERPOL must find a balance between being effective, without allowing human rights violations by governments seeking to use its processes for illegitimate reasons.

Human rights charity Fair Trials International has documented a number of abuses of Red Notices, and has been campaigning to strengthen INTERPOL on this score since 2013, identifying several key areas where reform was needed.

Some of the changes suggested in 2013 have been implemented. Most notably, these include the creation of a new Refugee Policy preventing any “wanted” alerts from being issued against persons with refugee status, the requirement for new Red Notices to be reviewed by INTERPOL staff before they are published, and an improved process of appeal against the issue of a Red Notice.

However, as assessed in its latest scorecard Strengthening INTERPOL: An Update published earlier in 2017, there remain further reforms Fair Trials would like to see implemented.


What changes are still required?

In international proceedings, four years is a very short time. It is therefore hardly surprising that INTERPOL has failed to fully roll out all of the recommended changes from 2013.

Important reforms identified by Fair Trials, but not yet implemented, include:

  1. Better clarification of internal processes

Further assistance is required by INTERPOL in clarifying and providing guides to the interpretation of its rules, particularly in relation to asylum seeker law and extradition law. By providing more clarity about its own rules and requirements, anyone issued with a Red Notice is in a better position to understand why it has been issued and to defend it. Similarly, INTERPOL must provide more readily-available information about the process whereby it reviews and then either approves and publishes or rejects Red Notice requests.

  1. Requiring further information from external parties

For too long, Red Notices have been able to be issued with very little inquisition by INTERPOL. Effectively, this means that INTERPOL has been reaching out its very long arm of the law to locate and arrest people in circumstances where very little may be known as to whether the arrest is warranted, even under the originating state’s laws. Accordingly, a key reform is requiring a full chronology of the circumstances leading up to the request for the Red Notice, as well as a duly completed arrest warrant provided by the requesting state.

Along the same lines, Fair Trials has strongly urged INTERPOL to demonstrate consistency by clarifying that a Red Notice will either not be issued or will be cancelled forthwith if it is made after a request for extradition has already been refused on the basis of inappropriate political motivation.

Another recommendation is that INTERPOL follow up with the requesting country after a Red Notice has been issued and resolved. This is to ensure the arrested person has been afforded due process, and has been charged and convicted appropriately, and punished accordingly.


The update also contains various recommendations for new reforms, including:

  1. Ongoing improvement of review services
  • Creation of a comprehensive database to ensure that sources of information relied upon when deciding whether to issue an international alert are current and sufficiently detailed.
  • Improved communication with the United Nations and human rights organisations to create an open, information-sharing relationship.
  • Reviewing pre-existing Red Notices to ensure that they are consistent with newly implemented principles preventing the issue of Red Notices on purely politically motivated grounds or against refugees.
  • Providing publicly available statistics focusing on the issue of Red Notices and the success, withdrawal or cancellation rates of the same.
  • Regularly publishing clarifications of INTERPOL policies and guidelines to assist external parties.
  1. Upholding the integrity of National Central Bureaus

This could most efficiently be undertaken by reviewing the outcomes of arrests pursuant to Red Notices. But Fair Trials has further suggested that INTERPOL consider imposing sanctions on law enforcement authorities which do not properly cooperate with INTERPOL or fail to provide necessary information or transparency as to their motivations for requesting Red Notices.

  1. Maintaining the Refugee Policy

Fair Trials has also made recommendations for how the new Refugee Policy can be improved.

  • Ensuring that as many people who can benefit from this policy do so.
  • Retrospective review of already existing Red Notices to ensure that persons who would fall under the Refugee Policy do so.
  • Improving the effectiveness of the regime whereby refugee status is determined, so that Red Notices can be withdrawn swiftly and assistance obtained quickly. This could include relying on evidence provided by the claimed refugee, rather than waiting for matching confirmation from their (potentially corrupt) state of origin.



INTERPOL has implemented a number of reforms aimed at lowering the risk of Red Notices being abused by corrupt governments. However, Fair Trials points out in its update, INTERPOL could go further in helping to protect human rights, while still carrying out its law enforcement role.



Nyman Gibson Miralis provides expert advice and representation in INTERPOL-related criminal investigations and is experienced in having Red Notices successfully removed.

Contact us if you require assistance.