Legal Committee recommends steps to end abuse of INTERPOL’s Red Notices

“Red Notices” are part of an International Notice System, set up by INTERPOL, which allow police in member states to co-operate with a view to arresting and extraditing a person wanted by a national jurisdiction or an international tribunal. “The sharp increase of such notices over the last decade, and their alleged abuse by some member states in the pursuit of political objectives, repressing the freedom of expression or persecuting members of the political opposition beyond their borders, represent a serious challenge for the system,” said rapporteur Bernd Fabritius (Germany, EPP/CD).

“Abuse of INTERPOL's procedures raises issues of judicial accountability, both of states involved in abuses, either by making abusive requests or by executing them, and of INTERPOL, to the extent that its responsibility is engaged for providing assistance to States violating human rights,” he said, presenting his report on the “Abusive use of the INTERPOL system: the need for more stringent safeguards” to PACE’s Legal Affairs Committee in Paris today.

“Targeted persons cannot successfully challenge Red Notices before any national or international courts. Sometimes, people are arrested and extradited to countries where they cannot expect a fair trial, or where they are threatened by torture without even knowing that they were the subject of an INTERPOL notice. Given the damage abusive Red Notices can do to the lives of innocent people – impede their freedom of movement, restrict their employment possibilities or business activities and damage their reputation – it is important that weaknesses in the system are identified and measures taken to prevent and redress abuses more effectively,” he added.

In a draft resolution adopted today, the Legal Affairs Committee therefore calls for measures to ensure that Red Notices be requested by National Central Bureaus (NCBs) and circulated by INTERPOL only when there are serious grounds for suspicion against the targeted person.

It underlines that targeted individuals must be able to challenge Red Notices following fair procedures that are in conformity with national and international human rights guarantees. Welcoming recent reforms of INTERPOL’s Commission for the Control of Files, the Committee calls for the full implementation of these reforms, including the provision of sufficient resources enabling it to cope with the increasing number and complexity of cases. Available resources for checks should be concentrated on Red Notice requests emanating from NCBs with a high case count of abusive requests.

Finally, the committee calls for the creation of a fund for compensation of victims of abusive or otherwise unjustified Red Notices funded by member states in proportion to the number of unjustified Red Notices emanating from their NCBs – in line with the principle of causal responsibility (“the polluter pays”).

These reforms, aimed at strengthening the credibility of INTERPOL for the sake of protecting its important mission in the fight against serious trans-national crime including terrorism, will in turn strengthen the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms not only of the targets of abusive Red Notices, but also of the victims of criminals walking free because of malfunctioning international police co-operation, the committee concluded.