INTERPOL's Red Notices: Sometimes, It Ain't Over Even When it's Over


For the next several posts, the focus of this blog will be on the issues raised and discussed in the 2011 Annual Report by the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL's Files ("CCF"), found here. Every year, the CCF issues its report, focusing on INTERPOL's accomplishments and challenges from the CCF's vantage point. This year, the 2011 report was presented on November 8 by the Chairman of the CCF to INTERPOL's General Assembly, which took place in Rome, Italy.

The CCF does an admirable job of publicly highlighting the problems faced by INTERPOL and by its member countries, and credibly appears to take seriously its obligation of balancing law enforcement interests with individual human rights.

Among the challenges to be corrected, the CCF noted the rather pervasive problem of member countries' National Central Bureaus ("NCB's") failing to advise INTERPOL when a Red Notice was no longer valid. The CCF reported that, even when a Red Notice subject had been arrested and sentenced to a term of imprisonment, the Notice frequently remained live.

Experience showed that NCBs generally did not follow up such information and only rarely informed the General Secretariat that the person had served his or her sentence.

The effect of such failures by the NCBs is that people who have served their sentences and then travel abroad are still subject to detention in other INTERPOL member countries, although no charges are pending against them.
Based on that observation, the CCF advised INTERPOL to re-evaluate its policy regarding systemic retention of information for certain persons. The CCF's recommendation is a sensible one, both from an individual rights point of view and from INTERPOL's vantage point. Clearly, invalid data ought not to be maintained in a database designed to aid in detention and extradition.
Moreover, INTERPOL protects itself when it employs effective internal quality assurance mechanisms. INTERPOL has taken a more active and public role in protecting itself from external attacks resulting from the improper or erroneous activity by its member countries' NCBs. A change in the policy of systemic retention would place yet another obstacle between INTERPOL and its less vigilant member countries.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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