A Red Notice is an electronic alert issued by the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) to detain a person. Whilst serving as a valuable law enforcement tool in combating serious crime and terrorism, Red Notices have long been criticised as being potentially subject to abuse.
What is being done?
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has recently adopted a resolution to address the ongoing abuse of INTERPOL Red Notices. Whilst PACE does not have the formal authority to reform INTERPOL, its organisation accounts for a significant proportion of INTERPOL members, putting it in a good position to exert influence over INTERPOL’s member countries to push for reform.
This new resolution follows up on PACE’s initial 2017 recommendations, noting that while many of its proposals have already been implemented, others have not.
How may Red Notices be abused?
INTERPOL Red Notices may be abused in a variety of ways including:
- Political abuse – for example, issued against exiled political activists or foreign asylum seekers.
- Corruption – this includes the issue of Red Notices by way of retribution or revenge, whether relating to personal matters or corporate affairs.
- Failure to seek extradition – by issuing what is in effect a malicious Red Notice with consequential impacts on the “wanted” person, but without any attempt to bring them back to the issuing country if located.
Which countries most commonly abuse Red Notices?
Russia, China and Turkey, which stepped up a crackdown on wanted fugitives in the wake of the 2016 failed coup bid against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are presently regarded as the most egregious abusers of the Red Notice system.
There are also documented examples of abuse on the part of Egypt, Azerbaijan, UAE, Venezuela, Iran, Indonesia and Bahrain.
Challenges and criticisms
Whilst PACE has been praised by experts for their efforts to hold INTERPOL accountable, it has been acknowledged that it will not be an easy road forward.
It is posited that due to the lack of transparency within INTERPOL, there will be difficulties in determining how much progress has been made.
There are also criticisms that PACE’s recommendations are “too vague”, and that more could be done, such as working with the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF) to better identify instances of Red Notice abuse and provide recourse for individuals targeted by politically-motivated Red Notices. This may involve allowing individuals the right to a hearing, and the right to examine evidence produced by governments.
“INTERPOL has made considerable progress in recent years to fix the faults that enable the misuse of their systems for politically motivated purposes,” said Bruno Min, a senior policy advisor from Fair Trials, “but as PACE rightly recognises, there is still so much more to be done. And there is also much more that European member countries and the European Union could be doing, both by supporting INTERPOL’s reforms and by acting responsibly on Red Notices and diffusions.”
Reports have been published by organisations such as Fair Trials International, recommending ways to address the abuse of Red Notices. Despite this, it has been perceived that INTERPOL has not been doing enough to prevent human rights abuses disguised as “catching criminals”.