Red Notices FAQ. (3)

  Feng Sun

Feng Sun


Q13. I know that there is information about me on INTERPOL’s files. How do I get it deleted?

INTERPOL states that there are three courses of action you can take to try to get your name removed from INTERPOL’s files.

First, you can ask the authorities in the country which issued the Red Notice to remove the information. Each country has its own laws and procedures and you will need to take local legal advice in the relevant country to explore this step.

Secondly, you can ask the authorities in the country where you live to ask INTERPOL to remove your name from its databases. This is not done very often and you would need the help of a lawyer to pursue this option.

Finally, you can write to the CCF and ask it to recommend the deletion of your information. Your letter will need to comply with the admissibility requirements described in Question 7.

Q14. Should I make an access request first, before asking for the information to be deleted?

Although this is likely to increase the overall length of the process, it may be helpful to make a request for access first. This is because the CCF may disclose information to you, and this will help you understand what is alleged against you and enable you to provide more relevant comments and arguments when challenging the information.

Q15. Should I write to the CCF myself or brief a lawyer to do it?

INTERPOL’s rules are very complex and the best course is to contact a lawyer with experience of challenging INTERPOL Red Notices and Diffusions. The Annex to this Note of Advice includes the names of some law firms which have this sort of experience.

However, INTERPOL does not provide legal aid and we are not aware of any country providing legal aid to enable a person to challenge a Red Notice or Diffusion. Accordingly, if you are unable to pay for legal help, you may wish to make a request yourself.

Q16. What rules will the CCF apply?

Again, because of the complexity of the rules, it is not possible to respond to this question in a few words. However, there are some key rules on which you may wish to rely.

The main one is Article 3 of INTERPOL’s Constitution, which states that it is ‘strictly forbidden’ for INTERPOL to engage in any activities of a political, religious, military or racial character.

Another key provision is Article 2 of INTERPOL’s Constitution, which requires the organization to act ‘within the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’.

Finally, the main rulebook which the CCF will apply is the Rules on the Process of Data (‘RPD’) (available on INTERPOL’s website), which includes detailed provisions on Red Notices and Diffusions.

Q17. What kinds of arguments could I make under Article 3?

It is not entirely clear how INTERPOL understands Article 3 of its Constitution. However, we understand that it weighs up the ‘political’ aspects of a case against the ‘ordinary-law’ (criminal) aspects to see which ‘predominates’.

Accordingly, you should draw attention to political aspects of your case. We suggest that you organize this information in your letter according to these headings, which are based on INTERPOL’s rules:

  • The nature of the offence, namely the charges and underlying facts.

In this section, you should talk about the offence that you are said to have committed and explain in what way it can be considered political. For instance, if you are accused of organizing a riot, but in fact you were leading a peaceful protest about a political cause, you should explain this.  If you have evidence (video footage, eye witness statements, newspaper reports), include this.

  • The status of the person concerned in this section, you should explain who you are, focusing on your political status. If you are a political figure, you should explain this and provide evidence (for instance, a letter from political parties confirming your membership).
  • If you have a bad relationship with the country that has obtained a Red Notice against you, explain this.  For instance, if you have been involved in a campaign which has troubled the authorities, explain this. Include evidence (such as newspaper reports) to confirm this.
  • It is important to point out in this section if you are a refugee. Make sure you provide evidence (such as your refugee travel document or the letter from the immigration authorities granting you asylum). If possible, try to provide evidence of the reasons why you were recognized as a refugee (for instance, if you have a reasoned decision, provide this).
  • The identity of the source of the data

In this section, you should explain why you think the country may be pursuing you for political reasons. For instance, if you think it is because the country often represses people from a political movement you are part of, explain this. If possible, provide evidence (for instance, reports by bodies like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, United Nations bodies, or local human rights organizations).

  • The general context of the case

In this section, you should provide all other information regarding political aspects of the case. In particular, if the country seeking your arrest has asked for you to be extradited in the past and this was refused because it was considered to be a political request, you should say so and provide evidence (a copy of the judgment).

If the criminal case against you is well-known and has been discussed in the media, or if human rights organizations have said they are concerned about the case against you being political, you should provide this evidence.

Q18. What kinds of arguments could I make under Article 2?

Article 2 requires INTERPOL to take into account human rights in relation to the circulation of a Red Notice or Diffusion. It is not very clear how this rule is understood, but we would suggest covering the following issues.

  • Freedom of speech / assembly

If you are a journalist or political campaigner and the Red Notice / Diffusion is preventing you from speaking freely, for instance by preventing you from attending events, say so. Try to provide evidence (for instance, letters from governments denying you permission to enter because of the Red Notice / Diffusion).

  • Risk of torture

If you believe that you would be tortured if you were sent back to the country concerned, say so. Try to provide evidence. For instance, there may be reports from international bodies and courts saying that people in the same category as you are at risk of torture (ethnic groups, political parties, etc.).

If you have been granted protection from return to your country because of a risk of this kind (‘subsidiary protection’ in the EU, or protection under the Convention against Torture in other countries such as the US), provide proof of this). If a long time has passed since this decision was made, explain why you think you are still at risk.

  • Evidence obtained by torture

If you think the evidence in the criminal case has been obtained by torture, explain why. For example, this might be the case if you know that someone was beaten and forced to give evidence against you. Try to provide evidence (such as newspaper stories or reports by human rights organizations talking about the use of torture).

  • Death penalty

If you have been sentenced to death or if you are accused of an offence for which you could be sentenced to death, the Red Notice / Diffusion could still be valid if you are an adult. However, if you were a minor (that is, under 18 years of age) at the time of the facts, be sure to point this out.

Q19. What are some of the key rules in the RPD?

Among the RPD, some of the key rules on which you might want to rely for challenging a Red Notice of Diffusion include:

  • Not of interest for the purposes of international police cooperation (Article 76(2)(b) and Article 99(2)(c))

FTI believes that this rule means that a Red Notice cannot remain in place if it makes a request which no other country could cooperate with. So, for instance, if you have been recognized as a refugee and you believe no country would be allowed to send you back, say so.

FTI also believes that a Red Notice is not of interest for the purpose of international police cooperation if it concerns a ‘bounced cheque’ offence – most countries do not see this as a criminal offence, and so would not be prepared to extradite you for it.

  • Not using Red Notice for its intended purpose (Article 82)

The purpose of a Red Notice is to ‘seek the location of a wanted person and his/her ... arrest ... for the purpose of extradition’. If the country which obtained the Red Notice against you has had a chance to seek your extradition but has not done so, inform the CCF of this. If you think the country is using the Red Notice just to spoil your reputation or to stop you travelling, explain why.

  • Special conditions – Red Notices only (Article 83)

Red Notices may not be used for offences ‘that raise controversial issues relating to behavioral or cultural norms’ (like adultery), and offences ‘originating from a violation of laws or regulations of an administrative nature or deriving from private disputes’ (which might include the offence of ‘uttering an unfunded cheque’ in the United Arab Emirates).

  • Minimum sentence threshold – Red Notices only (Article 83)

Red Notices cannot be published or maintained unless they are sufficiently serious. This is decided by looking at the length of the sentence. There are two approaches:

If you have already been convicted, a Red Notice may not be published to seek your return to serve the sentence unless that sentence is at least six months’ imprisonment.

If you have not been convicted, a Red Notice may not be published to seek your return to face prosecution and trial unless the offence in question is punishable by at least two years imprisonment. In order to find out whether this is the case, you may have to contact a lawyer in the country concerned, to ask what the ‘legal maximum’ sentence for the offence is. Otherwise, you can try searching for the Criminal Code for your country on the internet.

Q20. What else should I bear in mind when writing the letter?

Try to be as precise as possible, providing specific dates, names and places wherever possible.

Avoid making general, bare statements about the country persecuting you. Try to refer to the facts and explain why these demonstrate that what you think is right.

Q21. What will the CCF do with the information I send?

It is not entirely clear how much information the CCF shares with the NCB concerned by your request. The CCF’s rules require it to protect the confidentiality of a request but also recognize that it may have to share some information with INTERPOL; this could then potentially be shared with the relevant NCB.

Accordingly, if there is sensitive information – such as the fact that you have been granted asylum; or documents showing your association with people still in your home country – you should assume that there is some risk of this coming into the possession of the NCB as a result of the request. However, the information may be very important for the purposes of challenging the Red Notice / Diffusion, so you may feel you have to submit it.

There is no harm in explicitly asking the CCF to keep the information you submit confidential. Equally, if there are names of people in the documents which you feel uncomfortable submitting, you could redact these, though bear in mind that this may affect the document’s persuasiveness.

Q22. What action will the CCF take once it has read my request?

The CCF will examine the information you give and may, based on what you say, ask questions to the NCB that obtained the Red Notice against you or issued the Diffusion against you. It may also ask the NCB to provide a copy of the arrest warrant which it has issued against you.

Q23. Will the Red Notice / Diffusion stay available while my challenge is ongoing?

The CCF has developed a practice whereby it will sometimes recommend to INTERPOL that it block access to a Red Notice / Diffusion while it considers a complaint. If it does this, other NCBs consulting INTERPOL’s systems will not see it.

This may entail the public extract of a Red Notice disappearing from INTERPOL’s website while your complaint is being considered. However, if you see that the Red Notice has disappeared, do not assume that it has been permanently deleted. Wait until you have a written answer from the CCF.

There is no specific procedure for requesting the CCF to follow this course. However, since it is able to do it, there is no reason not to make a specific request to this effect in your letter.

Q24. Will I know what questions the CCF asks the NCB?

In our experience so far, the text of any questions to the NCB is not disclosed, though the CCF may give you an indication of what kind of thing it has asked the NCB.

Q25. How long does the NCB have to respond?

The CCF has the power to set deadlines within which it expects to hear back from the NCB, though we do not know specifically how long these usually are. It may be that the CCF expects answers by the time it sits at its next session (so three to four months).

Q26. Will I know what the NCB says in response?

In our experience so far, this information is not disclosed, though the CCF may come back to you with further questions.

Q27. What if the NCB does not respond?

We understand that when an NCB fails to respond altogether, the CCF considers that it has no option but to conclude that the information on INTERPOL’s files complies with the rules.

Q28. Will there be a hearing?

No. There is a power for the CCF to meet with individuals but the current CCF has never used this facility. The CCF will base its decision on the information submitted to it in writing.

Q29. When can I expect an answer from the CCF?

The CCF meets three times a year, and it will usually take at least two sessions for it to reach a decision on a complaint. Accordingly, you should expect to wait at least six to eight months for an answer.

Obviously, the complexity of the claim and the need for the CCF to collect information from the NCB will also affect the duration of the whole process.

Q30. What powers does the CCF have?

When it has finished considering all the information you submitted, the CCF will issue a ‘recommendation’ to INTERPOL. INTERPOL then has an opportunity to dispute the recommendation, though we understand that the CCF’s view is usually followed.

Q31. What are the different possible outcomes?

The CCF will recommend one of three things. First, it may recommend that the information be deleted altogether. Second, it may recommend that the Red Notice / Diffusion be marked with a ‘caveat’ or ‘addendum’ (see Q below). Third, it may conclude that the information complies with INTERPOL’s rules and recommend no change.

Based on responses we have seen, it is possible that you will not be provided with specific reasons as to why the CCF reached its conclusion. If this happens, you should write back to the CCF requesting further explanations.

Q32. I have told the CCF that I am a political refugee and provided evidence. Will the Red Notice / Diffusion be deleted?

Not necessarily. INTERPOL’s understanding of Article 3 is that even if one country decides that you are at risk of harm in your home country for political reasons, this does not necessarily mean that your home country’s Red Notice / Diffusion against you is political.

If it takes this view, the CCF may recommend the inclusion of an ‘addendum’ reflecting the fact that you have been recognized as a political refugee. The same applies where your extradition has been refused.

Q33. What is an ‘addendum’ / ‘caveat’?

An ‘addendum’ or ‘caveat’ is an additional piece of information which is added to the file by INTERPOL. It includes relevant information such as the fact that you have been granted asylum or that your extradition has been refused.

The purpose of an addendum is to ensure that police in other countries are aware of the information, as this may influence their decision whether to arrest you or not.

Q34. Will I see the text of an ‘addendum’ / ‘caveat’?

Though we have requested this, we have not yet seen the text of an addendum and we do not know how much detail they include. We encourage you to ask to know the precise content of the addendum. Unlike the original Red Notice / Diffusion, it is not the property of the NCB so you can reasonably claim to be entitled to see it.

Q35. If the Red Notice against me appears on INTERPOL’s website, will an ‘addendum’ also appear there?

No. If the CCF recommends that an ‘addendum’ be placed on a Red Notice, then the public extract of the Red Notice on INTERPOL’s website will be removed. However, the Red Notice itself will still be visible to police and border agents.

Q36. What can I do if the CCF refuses my request?

There is no appeal against a decision of the CCF. In addition, if you make another complaint, the CCF will only re-examine the case if you bring to its attention a new fact which, had it been known to the CCF when it was considering the first complaint, ‘would probably have led to different conclusion’.

Q37. The Red Notice / Diffusion have been deleted. What now?

The usual procedure is for all INTERPOL member countries to be informed of the fact that the Red Notice / Diffusion have been deleted. However, if you are not told specifically that this has been done, you should write back to the CCF asking it to confirm this.

Q38. The Red Notice / Diffusion have been deleted. Can I then travel freely?

Unfortunately, even if the Red Notice / Diffusion has been deleted, and even if all INTERPOL member countries have been informed of this, there are still potential risks for you.

This is because information from INTERPOL’s files may (and probably will) already have been downloaded and copied onto national police databases in countries around the world. Even if INTERPOL deletes its own information, this does not mean the information will be deleted from local computers.

You could therefore still be arrested, for instance when crossing a border or when providing a passport when checking in to a hotel.

It may be useful for you to take with you on any travels a copy of the letter confirming that the Red Notice / Diffusion has been deleted.

You may also wish to make prior contact with a lawyer in the country to which you are travelling, either to have your name removed from the local police database or simply to be ready in case you get arrested.


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