Despite what Hollywood have us believe the International Criminal Police Organisation, or Interpol as it is popularly known, is not some giant omnipotent spider sitting at the center of its web that occasionally extends a limb to apprehend a terrorist here and a pedophile there. It was established in September 1923 to better coordinate communication between the police forces of member nations. That role has evolved in the nine decades since then, however, Interpol finds its role being pushed into the political arena as governments around the world increasing (ab)use it to further their own political agendas. Nowhere is this more evident than the when it comes to the issuing of so-called Interpol Red Notices.
These Red Notices have assumed a status of devastating power in popular culture. In most cases the mere hint of an individual’s name being linked to a Red Notice can result in significant irreparable reputational and financial harm. Confusion reigns as to who actually issues an Interpol Notice and how it originates.
When a Red Notice is issued against individuals, the persons concerned are wanted by national jurisdictions for prosecution or to serve a sentence based on an arrest warrant or court decision. The role of Interpol is to assist the national police forces in identifying and locating these persons with a view to their arrest and extradition or similar lawful action. primarily sufficient legal basis for arrest issued by Interpol on behalf of a nation seeking a fugitive, where these individuals are labeled as “wanted international persons”. According to Dr. Rutsel Martha, the former general counsel and director of legal affairs of Interpol, “No member country is legally empowered to issue any Interpol notice whatsoever, irrespective of the type (colour). Only Interpol’s general secretariat HQ is legally authorised to issue Interpol notice.” Whilst Interpol has attempted to explain that Interpol Notices (of which ever colour) http://www.interpol.int/INTERPOL-expertise/Notices are issued at the request of member states it remains a reality that perception of what a Red Notice represents can be devastating.
However over the years Interpol’s credibility has taken a battering because of abuse of its power by member countries that do not respect the rights of, in the main, their own citizens, which they have committed to uphold.
Nevertheless, the Interpol seems to be mending its ways in maintaining transparency and recently has received positive feedback by quashing Malaysian police’s request for a blatantly politically-motivated Red Notice to be issued against British investigative journalist, Clare Rewcastle Brown.
Clare Rewcastle Brown is the Editor-in-Chief of an online portal, the Sarawak Report, which is in news lately for publishing a series of articles on Malaysian state-owned debt-ridden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The site was banned by Malaysian Communications & Multimedia Commission citing that the content could create unrest and threaten national stability. And subsequently Malaysian authorities requested Interpol to issue a Red Notice against Clare Rewcastle Brown. However, after reviewing documents sent to it Interpol rejected the request.
In another high-profile recent case, Interpol redeemed itself by publically announcing the cancellation of Red Notice in relation to Rafat Rizvi and Hesham Al Warraq. British Banker, Rafat Rizvi and Saudi national Hesham Al Warraq were falsely accused of stealing assets from Bank Century and became victims of a cover-up orchestrated by the government of former Indonesian President Bambang Susilo Yudhyono. In December 2014 an OIC Tribunal issued a ruling in favour of the pair declaring Indonesia “culpable for a failure to comply with the most basic elements of justice when conducting criminal proceedings” and declaring that their convictions were not only null and void but also expunged.
After years of fighting against the illegally obtained convictions Indonesian system Rizvi and Al Warraq were able to obtain justice from Interpol with the help of Dr. Rutsel Martha, Founding Partner of Lindeborg Law andGeorge Burn of Vinson & Elkins LLP. Their clearance ( http://www.interpol.int/News-and-media/News/2015/N2015-115) stands as a testament to Dr Martha and Mr. Burn’s unique knowledge and skills.