Is Interpol’s Red Notice Misused by Authoritarian Regimes?


    Interpol’s Red Notice


    Interpol’s Red Notice has been increasingly misused over the past few years by authoritarian regimes. Countries like Turkey, Russia and China have issued an increasing number of red notices to hunt down journalists and political opponents. A red notice is an international electronic wanted persons notice issued and circulated by Interpol. It functions as a request to other countries to find and arrest criminals.

    K-J 1 It is highly likely that repressive governments will continue to abuse red notices in the upcoming 12 months.

    • Interpol is the world’s largest police organization. Its role is to facilitate law enforcement agencies to track down criminals and share information. Interpol cannot engage in activities of a political, military, religious or racial character. However, autocratic regimes have increasingly use it to hunt down exiled political opponents. [source]
    • Autocratic regimes exponentially increased over the past few years the number of red notices issued. Countries such as Russia, China and Turkey have issued red notices to find dissidents, journalists or political opponents seeking refuge in other countries. [source]
    • Russia is so far the greatest offender, as Moscow has issued 43% of all public red notices. Turkey, for instance, after the 2016 failed coup attempt, tried to upload the names of 60.000 people into the agency’s database. [source]
    • No major change has taken place with regard the procedure to issue red notices. Therefore,  it is highly likely that autocratic regimes will continue to use Interpol as a repressive instrument.  

    K-J 2 It is highly likely that dissidents who do not qualify as refugees will still be the subjects of red notices in the following 12 months.

    • Since 2012 when international organizations began drawing attention to the misuse of red notices, Interpol passed a reform. In 2015, Interpol announced that it would no longer publish red notices for individuals who had received the refugee status. [source]
    • However, even though refugees can no longer be extradited, those under red notices still face a broad range of difficulties. Placing these individuals in an Interpol list affect their rights to travel freely, their ability to be granted visas as well as accessing bank services and jobs. [source]
    • Moreover, the assurance that an individual will not be extradited only holds for those that qualify as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention. Therefore, there is still the possibility to issue a red notice against a journalist or political opponent that has not been granted refugee status. 

    K-J 3 It is highly likely that Interpol will suffer a reputational damage in the next 12 months.

    • Apart from using Interpol as repressive means, autocratic regimes have also managed to have their officials elected to chief jobs. In November 2021, Interpol elected an Emirati official as its President. Mr. Al-Raisi faces criminal complaints in at least five countries, based on claims of torture and arbitrary detention. [source]
    • The reputational damage to Interpol could have serious consequences. For instance, national police agencies will find other ways to cooperate such as though Europol. This will undermine the fight to transnational crime that require an international policy system such as the one of Interpol. [source]
    Interpol’s President Al-Raisi
    Arianna Sparviero
    Arianna Sparviero
    Arianna Sparviero is a graduate student at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. She is currently enrolled in the first year of the master course in International Affairs.

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