Updated on
May, 12 2024
Konstantina Zivla
Written by

INTERPOL’s possible involvement in International Parental Child Abduction cases

The complexity and seriousness of International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) cannot be overstated. When a child is wrongfully removed to or retained in a foreign country without the other parent’s consent, and efforts to resolve the issue fail without the intervention of the law, the prospect for a swift and effective resolution is remote. The utmost goal is to ensure the child’s best interests are observed, thereby mitigating potential psychological harm. This is where the necessity of an effective and clear international legal framework becomes starkly evident.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (hereinafter “the Convention”) was specifically designed to address these situations. Its primary purpose is to preserve whatever status quo child custody arrangement existed immediately prior to an action that might have led to any wrongful removal of a child. For doing so, the Convention outlines comprehensive procedures for the discovery and collection of evidence, the identification of children, the implementation of provisional measures, and ultimately, the return of the child, if it is in the child’s best interests. Each step is essential for the Convention’s objectives fulfilment. However, without robust international law enforcement collaboration, these efforts fall short. The Convention’s success entirely depends on international cooperation. Without it, the measures prove insufficient, the Convention becomes a “dead letter”.

Interpol’s (non?) involvement in Child Abduction matters

In this endeavour, INTERPOL’s role is pivotal, yet its current legal framework is not designed to efficiently and properly fulfil this role. INTERPOL’s existing legal framework, particularly concerning the issuance of Red Notices, is meticulously designed to exclude family or private matters, reflecting a broader policy to avoid engagement in cases that might primarily touch upon people’s personal or private sphere. 

Under Article 83 of INTERPOL’s Rules on the Processing of Data (the RPD), Red Notices are not issued for offences strictly classified as relating to family/private issues – such as adultery, bigamy, or child custody matters – unless they are linked to grave offences or organised crime. This policy is designed to safeguard the system against misuse and manipulation in familial disputes or cultural differences that are far from INTERPOL’s mission and objectives (Article 2 of the INTERPOL’s Constitution).

Despite this well-established rule, there have been remarkable instances where the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files (the CCF) deemed necessary to deviate its stance from the mentioned framework. 

Notably, a case of a custodial dispute in one family involving cross-border elements escalated into an “international crime”, as per logic of the national law enforcement. This is exemplified in the case marked by pseudonyms “XX” and “YY,” where XX (the mother) and her son YY became the focus of INTERPOL notices (Blue and Yellow Notices respectively), initiated by the NCB of the United States for allegations of “child abduction” (real names are replaced with “XX” and “YY” for privacy concerns). The mother of the child applied to the CCF asking for the deletion of data regarding her and her child YY from INTERPOL’s files, citing that the matter pertained to private family issues and a custodial dispute, as per Article 83 (1) (a) (i) of the RPD. The mother of the child also contended that she left the United States because of father’s abuse towards the child, when she left there was no custodial decision in the father’s favor, no restriction of any kind for her to leave the U.S., and, therefore, she left the country legally, acting in the best interests of the child. 

Ms XX also invoked arguments that the child’s whereabouts are well-known both to father and U.S. law enforcement agencies, and she is not hiding from anyone. The child feels well in a new country, attends school, plays with children, visits grandparents (relevant documents including psychological briefs and memo from school were attached to the CCF submissions by the mother). Therefore, the child has entirely adapted into the new society and encounters no harm whatsoever, unlike the situation in the U.S. – where the child was subjected to abuse and competent public authorities, including social service and police, failed to protect him (confirmation documents regarding these allegations were also attached).

However, the CCF dismissed XX’s arguments, affirming that the “abduction” charges are criminal in nature, extending beyond mere private disputes. In its decision, the Commission underscored the significance of the allegations and the imperative of international police cooperation, concluding that the notices should be upheld to support “global criminal justice efforts”. 

Please find the excerpts from the decision below

INTERPOL’s intervention in International Parental Child Abduction may be perceived as an overreach or a misapplication of its mandate, particularly when cultural and legal disparities shape the understanding of what constitutes a “serious crime” meriting Interpol’s intervention. 

While it is unequivocally acknowledged that parental child abduction represents both a crime and a human rights violation that necessitates decisive action, INTERPOL must strictly adhere to its protocols when issuing notices. Issuing or maintaining a Yellow Notice for a child merely labelled as “missing,” when a child is in a known and safe location, may contradict with child protection norms, causing undue trauma and disruption to the child’s well-being. Not speaking about the situations when parents who “abducted” a child, as per logic of national authorities, might travel with a child (including for treatment purposes or on vacation) and get arrested in the airport. Just imagine the level of stress and trauma a child might be inflicted with. It raises at least two reasonable questions:

  • Whether such interference with a parent’s and child’s rights is really proportionate and justified as to the level of “threat” they both impose to international order.
  • Are there possibly any alternative ways to seek resolution of custodial disputes between parents on the international level other than involving INTERPOL – an organisation which should tackle international organised crimes rather than pursue mothers with their children. For example, cooperation in civil matters and involving private enforcement authorities assisted by professional juvenile psychologists might be a good option, moreover, stipulated by the Hague Convention. 

In the meantime, systematic INTERPOL’s involvement in child abduction cases which we can see nowadays, subsequently raises even more critical questions:

  • Does the distinction between private matters and non-private matters exclusively affect Red Notices, or does it extend to the other notice types?
  • If the criterion applies across all notice types, what justifies the CCF’s occasional departures from the RPD? 
  • If different standards are indeed applied for Green, Yellow notices, what are the underlying reasons for such discrepancies? And maybe it is worth amending and enhancing INTERPOL’s legal framework respectively so that it complies with the legal certainty principle and ensures that individuals concerned can plan their lawful actions accordingly. Otherwise, their legitimate expectations cannot be met and human rights violations will occur worldwide. 
  • Why does INTERPOL not distinguish its approach and involvement in real kidnapping cases – when children are illegally taken by strangers (not parents or relatives who have custodial rights), including human trafficking, and in cases stemming purely from a family custodial dispute between parents? 

Despite the fact that it is obvious that the seriousness and level of threat of such actions are absolutely different, INTERPOL treats real human traffickers and kidnappers just the same as parents who left the country allegedly without “consent” of another parent. Such a situation looks absurd and is not justified if INTERPOL’s further stance and legal framework are not enhanced and adjusted accordingly with the fundamental human rights standards and Organization’s mission. 

These questions emphasise, in a rhetorical way, the necessity for a transparent, consistent application of INTERPOL’s standards, ensuring that its resources are employed judiciously ensuring conformity with both international legal standards and child protection principles.

Critically, INTERPOL’s selective intervention in private matters risks undermining the neutrality and universality that are foundational to its operations, exposing the organisation to criticisms of inconsistency and potential bias within its legal framework. This inconsistency could erode trust among its Member States and those directly impacted by its decisions, thereby complicating its core mission and potentially hindering cooperation in more universally acknowledged criminal pursuits. This cherry-picks application of its legal norms, may divert resources from more clear-cut cases of international crime, potentially entangling INTERPOL in legal and cultural disputes that lie outside its intended scope, and thereby impacting its effectiveness and global reputation. 

Concerns of Human Rights Violations

INTERPOL’s involvement in International Parental Child Abduction cases should be justified and predicated, as a minimum, on:

  1. Valid and final judicial decisions that a child has been wrongfully removed or retained, in breach of custody rights. 
  2. The fact that such actions amount to grave offences or organised crime.

There is evidence of a growing trend of INTERPOL Red Notices against parents absent a court order, and simply because the “taking parent” has sought to protect the child from an intolerable situation of abuse or neglect. This practice can infringe upon the child’s fundamental right to protection from harm and may amount to an abuse of the criminal and immigration systems of the countries involved. In these situations, it is crucial to challenge the issuance of these Notices through the CCF presenting compelling evidence of potential child abuse or significant harm, if a child is returned to their habitual residence. This methodical approach aligns INTERPOL’s actions with its core commitment to safeguard the vulnerable, ensuring at the same time adherence to the highest international legal standards. Enhancing INTERPOL’s stance in this regard would also ensure that a child’s best interests are respected. 


At present, INTERPOL’s actual role and involvement criteria in disputes over child custody between parents are ill-defined. To remedy this, we face two clear paths: either revise INTERPOL’s legal framework to effectively manage “child abduction” cases across all notice types, or uniformly decide against issuing any notices in such scenarios. The decision is stark and calls for urgent action to strengthen INTERPOL’s global response to this pressing challenge. This strategic refinement can substantially bolster INTERPOL’s capabilities in handling “child abduction” cases more decisively and consistently.

Submitting a Request for INTERPOL Notice Deletion

If you are facing an INTERPOL notice and seeking to have your name removed from the INTERPOL database, here are the basic steps:

  • Verify the Type and Basis of Notice: Determine which INTERPOL notice has been issued against you and on which actual and legal grounds – which will allow you to tailor your response and defence strategy.
  • Consult a Legal Expert: Seek advice from a lawyer specialised in International Law and INTERPOL related procedures to navigate the complexities of your case.
  • Gather Documentation: Collect all necessary documents and evidence that support your claim for having the notice reviewed/removed.
  • Submit a Formal Request: Assign to a legal expert the submission of a Request to the CCF for the data deletion from INTERPOL’s files. This request should be well-prepared and substantiated, emphasising legal grounds and evidence substantiating your case.
  • Follow-Up and Advocacy: After the Request’s submission, continuous follow-up with INTERPOL is critical. Our legal team can help maintain pressure and provide ongoing advocacy to enhance the chances of a favourable outcome.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding International Parental Child Abduction, feel free to contact the Collegium of international Lawyers 24/7.

We are always available at [email protected] or by calling +357 25 059 684.

Act swiftly, think strategically to challenge an INTERPOL notice effectively.

Konstantina Zivla
Konstantina Zivla
Konstantina Zivla is a prominent legal professional, admitted to the Cyprus Bar Association.
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