Author: Nyman Gibson Miralis
Subject: INTERPOL Reforms
Keywords: INTERPOL Red Notice, political abuse, corruption, illegitimate Red Notices, strengthening INTERPOL, due process.
INTERPOL is an important tool for global justice, but as with any law enforcement agency, its processes are open to the potential for corruption and political abuse.
In 2013, human rights charity Fair Trials International proposed a number of reforms designed to strengthen INTERPOL, focused on preventing abuse by states and governments trying to use the organisation to meet their own political, ideological and legal agendas.
Earlier this year, Fair Trials released a report card on the pace of this reform, Strengthening INTERPOL: An Update.
We take a look at why Fair Trials believed reform was needed, and some of the key changes that have been implemented.
What problems needed urgent addressing?
In Fair Trials International’s view, the key areas requiring reform included:
- The issue of whether INTERPOL adhered sufficiently to its principal tenets of human rights and political independence
- The failure of existing systems to prevent incorrect, false or politically-based INTERPOL alerts from being circulated and acted upon
- A lack of recourse or appeal options for persons who believe they have been subjected to inappropriate INTERPOL notices or alerts
In particular, the 2013 report suggested a number of reforms to INTERPOL’s Red Notices system, which issues international “wanted” alerts. These included:
- Preventing persecution by ensuring that Red Notices are not being utilised to arrest or pursue political opponents of governments
- Ensuring that the process of issuing Red Notices is subject to additional scrutiny to prevent illegitimate Red Notices from being issued in the first place
- Preventing Red Notices from being acted upon by national law enforcement agencies until they have been appropriately sanctioned by INTERPOL.
- Following up once arrests have been made based on the issue of a Red Notice to ensure that the arresting state has conducted a prosecution and conviction process which aligns with INTERPOL’s principles.
What reforms have been implemented to date?
As noted in the update, there have been a number of developments since the reforms were proposed in 2013.
- In 2015, the new Refugee Policy was announced. It prevents any Red Notices from being issued against those who have been granted refugee status. Under the policy, if an alert has been successfully published and the General Secretariat then discovers that the named person falls within the relevant definition of a refugee, the Red Notice will be cancelled immediately. The logic of this is clear – corrupt governments have sought to punish dissenters or political opponents by issuing Red Notices for their arrest and effectively requesting their return to the state to be treated however the government liked.
Regrettably, according to Fair Trials, the Refugee Policy remains relatively unknown, and doesn’t appear in INTERPOL publications. It is therefore not relied upon as frequently as possible to help protect those who are genuine refugees from persecution.
There may also be difficulties with the Refugee Policy only extending to those who fall within a narrow definition of a “refugee”, without including those who may not be able to prove their eligibility for refugee status. Similarly, the fact of a Red Notice being issued against a person may invalidate them from being recognised as a refugee, which would ultimately have the opposite effect to that intended by the Refugee Policy.
- INTERPOL has updated its database and document publishing criteria, meaning that international alerts and notices are scrutinised more carefully and are reviewed by INTERPOL staff before publication, rather than simply being issued as soon as they are requested.
- The Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files has also undergone significant reform to improve rights to appeal against the issue of Red Notices, with regard to transparency and the basic standards of due process.
For a number of years, Fair Trials International has been campaigning for reforms aimed at improving INTERPOL’s effectiveness, while still protecting human rights. INTERPOL has made strong progress on this front, implementing a number of the suggestions, but as pointed out in the update, there are further steps that can be taken.
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