What is Interpol and how to find yourself in its wanted databases

A significant part of the cases in our criminal law practice are cases related to the procedure of detention, arrest and extradition of persons who are wanted by Interpol.

We decided to summarize the experience and knowledge we gained during the protection of clients within the framework of extradition procedures and share it with you.

So, let’s start first with what Interpol is, what are the principles of this organization’s activities, and the mechanism of declaring a person internationally wanted.

Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization, ICPO) is an international organization, the main task of which is the organization of broad cooperation between the criminal police authorities of member states with the aim of preventing and fighting crime.

The organization was created in 1923 in Vienna and, at that time, was called the International Criminal Police Commission. According to the Charter of the organization, the head of the Commission was the head of the police of the host country, which was originally Austria. However, in 1938, after the Anschluss (accession of Austria to Nazi Germany), the headquarters of the Commission was moved to the capital of Nazi Germany – Berlin. As a result, most of the member states stopped their participation in the organization, which actually led to the termination of its activities as an international organization.

However, after the end of the Second World War, in 1946 the Commission actually resumed its activities, and the headquarters was moved to Paris.

In 1956, the Statute was approved, which is valid to this day. The same Statute approved a new name – “International Criminal Police Organization – Interpol”.

In 1989, the headquarters of Interpol was moved to the city of Lyon (France), where it is still located.

As of today, Interpol includes 194 member states.

Working languages ​​are English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

The structure of Interpol bodies consists of the following bodies:

  1. General Assembly. The highest body. It consists of delegates appointed by participating states. Sessions are held annually. Only one delegate from each country has the right to vote at the sessions of the General Assembly. Decisions are made by a majority of votes or a qualified majority of 2/3 of the votes. The General Assembly determines the basic principles of the organization’s work, approves the work plan for the coming year, elects other bodies of the organization, etc.
  2. Executive Committee. It is elected by the General Assembly consisting of 13 people (President, three Vice-Presidents, nine Delegates). The main functions are control over the work of the General Secretary and the implementation of the decisions of the General Assembly, the preparation of the organization’s work programs and their submission to the General Assembly for consideration.
  3. General Secretariat. Executive authority. Implements decisions of the General Assembly and the Executive Committee. Acts as an international center for combating crime, acts as a specialized information center. It consists of the General Secretary, technical and administrative staff. The candidacy of the Secretary General is proposed by the Executive Committee and approved by the General Assembly for a period of 5 years. The General Secretary selects personnel, organizes the work of permanent services, manages the budget.
  4. National Central Bureau. Each of the participating states in its structure of national law enforcement agencies creates a National Central Bureau (NCB), which is the body responsible for the interaction of national law enforcement agencies with the National Central Bureau of Interpol, other countries and the General Secretariat of Interpol.
    For example, in Ukraine, the powers of the National Security Service are exercised through the Working Apparatus of the Ukrburo of Interpol, which is an independent structural subdivision of the apparatus of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine under the authority of a department.
  5. Advisors. An advisory body created to receive advice. It is chosen from among persons who enjoy worldwide authority in a certain area, which is of interest to Interpol.

It is worth noting that, contrary to popular opinion, Interpol is not some kind of supranational organization that independently conducts investigations. Interpol employees do not have the right to independently engage in investigative or operational activities, arrest persons, carry and use service weapons. Although the organization has certain special response teams, but these are, in fact, trainers who, as necessary and only with the consent of the participating state, assist the police of the participating states in situations where, for example, the latter lack the resources and experience to apprehend the most dangerous criminals .

The main function of Interpol is to coordinate the work of law enforcement officers from different countries, facilitate their work in terms of the peculiarities of different national justice, legislation, language barriers, and create and maintain specialized information databases.

In particular, Interpol has the following databases at its disposal: Bank of images on child abuse; Database “Search for terrorists”; Search database; Automatic dactyloscopic identification system; DNA based identification system; Database “Lost and stolen documents”; Database “Stolen art objects”; Database “Stolen vehicles”.

In the Interpol search database there are notices of eight colors, each of which has its own meaning:

  • red (search for persons with the aim of their arrest and extradition);
  • blue (collecting materials about a certain person in the interests of the investigation);
  • green (information about potential criminals, who are usually recidivists);
  • yellow (search for missing persons);
  • black (identification of unidentified corpses);
  • purple (search or information about criminal schemes, instruments of crimes, methods of their commission);
  • orange (warning about the existence of a threat to life, health and property of people);
  • blue and white joint Interpol and UN Security Council card (used to identify groups of persons or individuals under UN Security Council sanctions).’

The red notice is one of the most effective tools at Interpol’s disposal. In order for a red notice to appear in the Interpol database regarding a person, which gives the right to detention and extradition, the following stages should be completed:

  • the law enforcement agency sends a corresponding request to the National Central Bureau of Interpol;
  • The National Central Bureau of Interpol checks the request for compliance with international law;
  • if the request meets the requirements of international legislation, the National Central Bureau of Interpol applies to the General Secretariat of Interpol for the publication of the request;
  • The General Secretariat re-checks for compliance with international legislation;
  • if the request meets the requirements of international law, the General Secretariat publishes a notice and sends information to participating states.

Individual member states, especially a number of former republics of the USSR, abuse the request for a red notice for reasons of political persecution.

Quite often, if the NCB understands that the General Secretariat will not miss a politically motivated or groundless request for a red notice, it uses a slightly different mechanism of international search for a person, which is called “diffusion”. Its feature is that the “mail” is sent from the NCB directly to other member countries, bypassing the General Secretariat. At the same time, the legal consequences of a red notice and “mailing” are the same – it is the basis for arresting a person. Although, some countries are critical of the “mailing” because of the lack of a filter on the part of Interpol. Usually, the courts of these countries refuse temporary arrest on the basis of “mailing”.

Also, in most cases, the reason for the refusal of the General Secretariat of Interpol to search for a person is that the crimes for which the person is wanted are of a political, military, religious, racial nature or if the persecution is due to reasons of an economic nature.

Read the following article about what official procedures, in accordance with the national legislation of Ukraine, are applied in the event of a red notice being triggered when a person crosses the border of Ukraine.

Attorney Taras Seniv