What are Interpol Red Notices and how can you get them removed?

8 April 2020

Over 13,000 Interpol Red Notices were issued last year. Even if a person is not arrested pursuant to a Red Notice, the notice itself will cause considerable difficulties, preventing them from travelling and causing significant reputational damage. This blog looks at how you can challenge an Interpol Red Notice and get it deleted.
 

What is a Red Notice?

A Red Notice (sometimes referred to as a “Red Corner Notice”) is essentially a request by Interpol on behalf of one member state to all other member states to locate a suspect or convicted person and take steps to facilitate their surrender to the requesting state, usually through extradition proceedings. The legal effect of a Red Notice differs between member states and not every country will treat it as a valid arrest warrant. The practical effect, however, will invariably be the same: international travel becomes extremely risky and, if attempted, is very likely to lead to the individual concerned being stopped and the requesting state being notified of their location. An extradition request will likely then follow. A Red Notice is also likely to bring reputational damage, especially if details are published on Interpol’s website, and may result in the closure of bank accounts.

What are the problems with Red Notices?

Interpol is required to review all requests for Red Notices before publication to ensure they comply with its own rules and principles. Nevertheless, with limited resources and often limited knowledge of the facts on the ground, this review can be cursory. This lack of proper scrutiny allows some member states to abuse the Red Notice system and use it to facilitate improper activities, such as persecution of political opponents, contrary to Interpol's own rules. Increasingly, Interpol Red Notices are also abused by those who seek to apply pressure to opponents in commercial litigation.

Although Interpol's website has a search facility for Red Notices, only 7,261 are published online. This is just the tip of the iceberg: at the time of writing, there are approximately 62,000 Red Notices in circulation, and many of those subject to a Red Notice only find out about it when crossing a border.

How can you challenge a Red Notice?

  1. Pre-emptive letter
    We are often approached by people who know or suspect that a member state will soon be approaching Interpol to request publication of a Red Notice. In such circumstances, it is possible to send a pre-emptive letter to Interpol ahead of the requesting state making contact, setting out the reasons why publication of the Red Notice would violate Interpol's rules.
     
  2.  Request for deletion with full representations
    In other cases, an individual might not have advance warning and may have no knowledge about a member state’s intentions until after the Red Notice has been published. In these circumstances, a request for deletion can be submitted to the Commission for the Control of Interpol's Files (“CCF”). The CCF is an independent body within Interpol which ensures that all personal data processed by the organisation complies with its own rules. Requests for deletion are usually more detailed than a pre-emptive letter and may be supported by evidence, such as expert reports commenting on the specific case or country reports produced by NGOs. The CCF’s Requests Chamber meets every three months and will consider the representations at one of its meetings.

What arguments can be made when challenging a Red Notice?

The two most important documents for the purpose of challenging a Red Notice are Interpol's Rules on the Processing of Data (“RPD”) and its constitution. The RPD set out the minimum requirements for publication of a Red Notice, which include ‘a succinct and clear description of the criminal activities of the wanted person’. This is often formulated as: ‘is there evidence demonstrating the possible effective participation of the individual in the criminal activities?’ Interpol will not conduct a detailed assessment of the credibility of the allegations, but if it can be shown that the case is so much without foundation that it fails to cross this threshold, the Red Notice should be deleted. The RPD also prohibit publication of a Red Notice in certain circumstances, for example, where the offence originates from ’a violation of laws or regulations of an administrative nature or deriving from private disputes’.

Non-compliance with Interpol's constitution offers another basis to argue for deletion. Article 2 requires Interpol to act in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human Rights arguments will often look at how the subject will be treated if the Red Notice is acted upon and they are extradited to the requesting state. Are they likely to be held in a prison with poor conditions or be subjected to torture? Are there serious concerns about their ability to receive a fair trial? Article 3 forbids Interpol from undertaking any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character. This is relied upon by those who are targeted because of their religious or political beliefs and where the criminal case against them is a manifestation of this persecution. Reliance on Article 3 is most effective if combined with an argument that there is no evidence of possible effective participation; the absence of such evidence highlights the political or religious motivation.

Further information

You may also be interested in reading our previous blog "Interpol Red Notices and how to deal with them" for further details.  Should you have any questions, please contact a member of our criminal litigation team.

We have a wealth of experience of representing clients who are subject to Red Notices and we are often instructed by high profile individuals and professionals who are targeted by political opponents and adverse parties in hostile civil litigation. We have a comprehensive understanding of the functioning of Interpol and can advise on all related issues, such as diffusion notices, deletion of Red Notice extracts from Interpol’s website and further requests for removal of a Red Notice following a negative decision.

About the author

Will Hayes is a barrister in the Criminal Litigation team and represents individuals and corporate clients in a range of criminal cases. He has represented clients in cases covering the full spectrum of general crime, cases with an international dimension and represents clients defending extradition requests and challenging Interpol Red Notices. Will has a particular interest in legal professional privilege (LPP) and has developed a comprehensive understanding of the law and its practical application.

 

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