What is an Interpol Red Notice and what are the practical implications for Anne Sacoolas?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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