The International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) provides a shared database and communication channel to police forces from various countries. This international cooperation allows for assistance in circulating information about wanted persons.
One of the most common instruments used by INTERPOL are Red Notices.
What is the purpose of an INTERPOL Red Notice?
Article 82 of Interpol’s Rules on the Processing of Data (‘the Interpol Rules’) outlines the purpose of red notices:
Red notices are published at the request of a National Central Bureau or an international entity with powers of investigation and prosecution in criminal matters in order to seek the location of a wanted person and his/her detention, arrest or restriction of movement for the purpose of extradition, surrender, or similar lawful action.
Conditions for publication of red notices
Article 83 of the Interpol Rules outlines specific conditions that must be met prior to the issuance of a red notice:
(1) Minimum criteria:
(a) Red notices may be published only if the following cumulative criteria are met:
1. The offence concerned is a serious ordinary-law crime. Red notices may not be published for the following categories of offences:
- offences that in various countries raise controversial issues relating to behavioural or cultural norms;
- offences relating to family/private matters;
- offences originating from a violation of laws or regulations of an administrative nature or deriving from private disputes, unless the criminal activity is aimed at facilitating a serious crime or is suspected of being connected to organized crime.
The General Secretariat shall keep, update and share with National Central Bureaus and international entities a non-exhaustive list of specific offences that fall within the above categories.
2. Penalty threshold:
- if the person is sought for prosecution, the conduct constituting an offence is punishable by a maximum deprivation of liberty of at least two years or a more serious penalty;
- if the person is sought to serve a sentence, he/she is sentenced to at least six months of imprisonment and/or there is at least six months of the sentence remaining to be served.
(iii) The request is of interest for the purposes of international police cooperation.
There are further provisions under Article 83 for the minimum personal identification and judicial information data which must accompany an INTERPOL Red Notice.
Can a red notice be issued for failure to appear as a witness?
The relevant legislation of the country or jurisdiction in question will need to be referred to in determining the available measures under domestic law for failing to appear as a witness, following an international summons.
For example, failing to appear as a witness fails to meet the penalty threshold prescribed by INTERPOL for publication of Red Notices. Failure to appear is an offence often punishable by fine only. Furthermore, because failure to appear is an offence punishable by fine only, no warrant for arrest can be issued by a Magistrate following continued non-compliance with a summons to appear as a witness. An arrest warrant can only be issued for offences which carry a term of imprisonment or “penalty deprived of liberty”.
However despite the above analysis, due to varying international legislation, it is recommended to seek legal advice based on the specific situation and relevant jurisdictions.