Updated on
May, 20 2024
Dmytro Konovalenko
Written by

Abuse of Interpol red notices

What is the problem with the abuse of Interpol red notices?

The problem of INTERPOL red notice abuse is systemic and longstanding. The abuse consists in the fact that some Interpol member countries use the system for international searches for political opponents, civil society activists and journalists. In other words, they use the system to prosecute people in cases that have a political, religious, racial, or military context rather than a criminal one.

The reasons for the abuse, and why is it hard to avoid?

The reasons for the abuse of Interpol red notice are obvious. The main reason is the failure of some countries to observe the generally accepted rules and standards of international police cooperation and to use the existing capabilities of Interpol to solve their own domestic or foreign policy problems, while not being responsible enough for such violations.

There are almost no real and effective mechanisms to completely prevent abuse, as the Interpol system is not capable, both technically and legally, of filtering all Red Notice requests from around the world. It is almost impossible. Interpol is not able to provide a systematic approach to a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of all search requests. Therefore, there is a high risk that among all the data registered in the Interpol system from year to year, there will be requests with “ulterior motives”, i.e. requests that at first sight seem to be aimed at prosecuting a serious general crime, but in fact are aimed at persecution for political, religious, racial or military reasons. That is why we are focusing our practice on increasing pre-emptive requests that help us understand the details of each case before it is posted to the system, identify potential violations, and thus minimize the risk of system abuse in each case.

Who is it that uses red notices to their advantage ?

Red Notices are usually used to the advantage of anti-democratic regimes in different parts of the world, which disguise the fight against serious transnational crime by persecuting political opponents.

Who is most affected by the abuse of red notices?

As a rule, there is a certain category of people who are potentially at risk of being victims of abuse of the Interpol system by the offending country. In most cases, the system is abused by opposition politicians or politicians who are out of power but have been persecuted by the current government. The next category of people are civic activists, investigative journalists, i.e. intelligent representatives of civil society who lead a public life and whose activities are aimed at realizing certain ideas or, conversely, acting against the authorities or certain powerful social groups. Depending on each state and its internal socio-political situation, different ethnic groups may be at risk of state persecution on the basis of race or religion.

What does Interpol itself say about this?

In 2023 there were 91 General Assembly of INTERPOL, in VIENNA, and this assembly also raised the issue of abuse of the system and mechanisms to minimize it. Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock noted on this issue that Interpol has come a long way in preventing abuse by Russia and others of its “red notice” system where a country asks others to arrest a suspect, and cannot do much more for now to improve it.

Rights groups, legal experts, and others have long said that Russia and China are abusing the Interpol Red Notice system by using it to get political critics arrested abroad.

Mr Stock avoided naming and shaming individual countries but said Russia was under special measures aimed at preventing abuse, describing it as “the example” of a country under such measures.

However, the recent time demonstrates that the russia despite interpol decisions, finds new ways to abuse the system. We come to such conclusions from our own cases and from the statistics of the number of deleted red alerts initiated by Russia.

What have been the cases of clear abuse of red notices in recent years ?

In fact, Interpol never publicly highlights cases of abuse of the system and gives instructions or recommendations to offending countries through internal channels of the system. Of course, some cases do become public and are the subject of discussion.  Most of the cases of abuse are related to Russia, China and Turkey, which massively persecute their political opponents abroad.

What should you do if you have unjustifiably red notice ?

There is a fairly effective mechanism for dealing with obviously unjustified Red Notices. If you have been placed on an INTERPOL red notice and you believe that your case is political or that your rights are being seriously violated, you can submit a deletion request to the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL Files and ask for the data to be removed from the system.

Dmytro Konovalenko
Dmytro Konovalenko
Lawyer, an expert in extradition and Interpol. He is a member of the International Bar Association. For more than 5 years he has been defending clients against international wanted notices from the USA, Russia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and other countries. Dmytro has had a positive experience in taking preventive measures to block the search at the initial stages. Dmytro specializes in the defense of economic, political, and war crimes
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