Strategic Litigation

Fair Trials files amicus challenging use of INTERPOL to deny asylum


Fair Trials has filed an amicus brief in an 8th circuit case challenging the validity of INTERPOL Red Notices as sole evidence that an asylum seeker is ineligible for relief based on criminal activity. The Court in this case is deciding if a Red Notice constitutes the necessary probable cause to believe the asylum-seeker has committed serious nonpolitical crimes.

Red Notices are used as a tool to harass and threaten journalists, dissidents, and refugees. The prevalence of abusive notices invalidates the legitimacy of all Red Notices. Red Notices should not be considered evidence of probable cause until INTERPOL has enacted a better system for filtering out illegitimate Red Notices and has created an open, impartial, and accessible process for victims to challenge abusive notices.

An INTERPOL Red Notice is a global request for the provisional arrest of a wanted person. The notices contain identification information and the alleged facts and offense; countries must reference a national arrest warrant or judicial decision but do not have to provide a copy. Although INTERPOL attempts to weed out politically motivated warrants, it does not have the staff to effectively filter Red Notice requests. Only 30-40 employees are assigned to review 10,000 requests per year, as well as to re-review the 62,000 active Red Notices. Transparency is lacking: only 7,000 of these Red Notices are known to their subjects or to the general public.

Victims of abusive Red Notices can only challenge them by applying to the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF), a review panel. Challengers bear the burden of showing that a Red Notice is politically motivated. INTERPOL has legal immunity in countries in which it is based, so victims cannot take it to court, and CCF proceedings are not court-equivalent (i.e.. adversarial).  The CCF simply reviews a victim’s application and makes a decision.  CCF decisions can take up to nine months, during which time the Red Notice remains active and the accompanying harassment continues. CCF decisions cannot be appealed. Even when a decision is favorable, CCF decisions are not binding, so the challenge process may be ultimately useless to the victim.

Read more about Fair Trials work to reform INTERPOL’s practices.