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24 May 2021

Interpol: Undue influence and the increased powers of Red Notices in the UK post Brexit

5 mins

In April 2021, Sir David Calvert-Smith, the ex-Director of  Public Prosecutions (DPP), together with International Human Rights Advisors (including Ben Keith of 5 St Andrews Hill), published a damning report in light of suggestions that Major General Al-Raisi of the UAE is now a leading candidate for the Presidency of Interpol.

This position is currently held by Kim Jong Yang following the disappearance, then arrest by the Chinese authorities, of the former President of Interpol Hongwei Meng. The new President will be elected soon.

The President of Interpol is the 'figurehead of the only police and intelligence authority that can truly claim to span the globe'. Interpol processes and holds data provided to it from its 194 member states and can issue Red Notices and Diffusion Notices which greatly restrict movement and often result in arrests and detention. The President has considerable influence.

The report highlights how many jurisdictions have legal and political systems that are at odds with international standards, yet all members of Interpol purport to respect human rights and the rule of law. How does this sit comfortably with a President from a regime which uses torture and repression as a tool of governance?

This report grapples with the above question and examines the relationship between Interpol and the UAE, and the influence of the UAE on the mechanics of Interpol, as well as reports of its repeated misuse of the Red Notice system.

The report also includes:

1. Abuse of Red Notices

Strong evidence that the UAE has misused the Red Notice system for both minor offences and for political gain against those seen as a threat to the regime.

2. Undue influence

Coherent evidence that the UAE is seeking to improperly influence Interpol through funding and other mechanisms, and is seeking to cement its influence by seeking to have Major General Al Raisi elected as President.

3. No respect for human rights

Evidence continues to point to the use of torture and repression as a stock trade in the UAE; the use of rendition dressed up as extradition; and ineffective operation of the rule of law, which is non-existent in political cases. 

4. Major General Al-Raisi is unsuitable for the Presidency 

He has been directly implicated in the torture and detention in a number of high profile cases and it would be a backward step. His election would send a message to the world that Interpol has little or no respect for human rights and, perversely, to the rule of law.

Why is Interpol important?

Interpol is described as a 'global police force' although it is in fact a data controller which sends information through Red Notices and Diffusion Notices to the National Crime Bureaus of its members to alert them that an individual is wanted. Pre Brexit, in the UK, such Red Notices did not have the power of arrest attached to them, but since the enactment of the Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Act 2020 the police can now rely on a Red Notice to arrest for the purpose of extraditing people for serious offences. Obviously, if a Red Notice is politically motivated this is a cause of great concern. In order to try and ameliorate such concerns, the power of arrest is currently only attached to Red Notices from the UK’s ‘Five Eyes’ partners (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) plus Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. Yet there is a distinct lack of safeguards in this act to ensure only those states with a commitment to the rule of law are added to the list.

Furthermore, the recent ruling of WS v Bundesrepublik Case C-505/19 from the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) brought into stark relief how those in the UK have less protection from double jeopardy (being tried twice for the same offence) than those living in and travelling through the EU. This case held that an individual could not be prosecuted for the same offence once disposed of in any other Shengen signatory or Member State. In this case, WS, a German citizen, was tried for fraud and this was resolved with a fine. The US Government then alerted Interpol that he was wanted in the US for criminal charges arising out of the same facts and a Red Notice was issued. The Court held that the arrest of WS was incompatible with EU Law and the states refusal to arrest did not amount to a failure to comply with its obligations under Interpol.

A UK citizen in the same position does not have such protection and with the introduction of the Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Act 2020, could be subject to arrest and detention purely on the basis of a Red Notice from Interpol. Concerns about the Presidency of Interpol become very more acute when viewed in light of these changes.

For more information about our Criminal Defence and Extradition services, visit our webpage here.

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