Category: Reforming INTERPOL

INTERPOL’s Policy on Refugees Needs Improvement

INTERPOL’s Policy on Refugees Needs Improvement

Refugee Travel Document

In June 2014, the INTERPOL Executive Commitee introduced a new policy on refugees. Under the policy,

[i]n general, the processing of red notices and diffusions against refugees will not be allowed if the following conditions are met:

  • the status of refugee or asylum-seeker has been confirmed;
  • the notice / diffusion has been requested by the country where the individual fears persecution;
  • the granting of refugee status is not based on political grounds.

Since the policy came into force, INTERPOL has approved a number of requests from refugees asking to delete information about them from INTERPOL’s databases. The policy has been a significant step towards protection of refugees from member countries that abuse INTERPOL’s resources to persecute political opponents and other victims of unlawful criminal prosecutions. Nevertheless, the policy needs improvement.

Among the issues is that the policy does not guarantee any refugee the right to have the red notice or diffusion deleted. According to the policy, it is to be applied “in general.” By making this reservation, INTERPOL appears to retain the right to make exceptions and deny a refugee the relief whenever the organization deems proper.

Another significant flaw is that refugees are not exempt from the rule that INTERPOL doesn’t disclose whether there is information about an individual in its databases without the government’s consent. As a result, refugees, like other individuals, often learn that there is a red notice or diffusion against them only after they are detained due to the INTERPOL alert. In cases like these, the rights provided in the policy come too late.

In September 2017, the 86th INTERPOL General Assembly voted in favor of the policy and thereby assured its stability. Apart from that approval, the General Assembly seems to be more concerned about criminals unlawfully obtaining refugee status to shield themselves from legitimate prosecutions than about the victims of INTERPOL red notice abuse. In its Resolution GA-2017-86-RES-09, the General Assembly calls upon members countries to ensure that terrorists and other criminals don’t abuse refugee status. At the same time, the resolution fails to mention the need to protect individuals from persecution, to which INTERPOL refers as one of the three primary objectives of Article 3 of its Constitution, which “strictly forbid[s] . . . the Organization to understate any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.” Nothing in the resolution calls upon member countries to address the continuing abuse of INTERPOL’s resources against refugees.

Red Notice Abuse: INTERPOL’s Disclosures Fail to Identify Countries-Offenders and Their Violations

Red Notice Abuse: INTERPOL’s Disclosures Fail to Identify Countries-Offenders and Their Violations

In its annual reports, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files usually discloses the list of countries with regard to which it has received the most requests from individuals. It is important to remember that INTERPOL defines a request from an individual as a complaint, preliminary request, or request for access. The Commission prefers not to disclose the number of complaints it has received against each of the member countries, their nature, or its findings.

In its 2015 annual report, the Commission named the following member countries and the number of individual requests it had received concerning each of them:

  • Russia – 45
  • Ukraine – 24
  • USA – 23
  • UAE – 19
  • Egypt – 13
  • Italy – 13
  • India – 12
  • Venezuela – 10
  • Turkey – 9

The 2010 report is the only publication in which the Commission has publicly identified the countries against which it has received the majority of complaints. Since then, the Commission has only published the number of requests concerning individual countries without clarifying how many of those are complaints.

According to the 2010 report, Russia has been second only to India in terms of the number of requests and complaints. Between 2012 and 2015 (the 2011 annual report doesn’t contain the number of requests filed against individual countries), INTERPOL received more requests concerning Russia than any other country. At the same time, India moved to fourth place in 2013 and 2014 and seventh in 2015. In addition to Russia, the Commission has publicly identified other former Soviet Union republics with regard to which it has received individual requests, namely Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. In 2013, Ukraine was number seven. In 2015, it moved up to second place. Belarus was sixth in 2010, eighth in 2012, and ninth in 2013. The country isn’t mentioned in the 2014 or 2015 annual reports.

Among the countries that have remained on the Commission’s list since 2010 are the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and the United States. The United Arab Emirates has moved from fifth place in 2010 to second in 2012, eighth in 2013, second in 2014, and fourth in 2015. The United States and Venezuela have consistently appeared on that list too, with the United States remaining in third place since 2010.

Because these numbers reflect individual requests without specifying how many of those are complaints, their basis, or the Commission’s findings, they can’t be used to calculate how many times each member country has engaged in INTERPOL red notice abuse or understand the nature of that country’s violations. This lack of transparency has continued despite the dramatic increase in the number of individual requests and complaints in particular. The Commission should be more transparent and publish this information. It is necessary for the general public to stay informed so that it can hold INTERPOL and its member countries accountable.


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