Interpol Red Notices continue to be misused, representing a violation of international human rights standards.
A recent study requested by the European Parliament suggests that Interpol’s recent reforms to safeguard individuals have not been sufficiently implemented.
The report makes various recommendations for Interpol to ensure full implementation of the reforms, and transparency of the system.
The role of the European Parliament
The European Parliament represents the interests of individuals with regard to EU law-making, and helps to ensure that other EU institutions are working democratically.
The Parliament also supports the fight for democracy and human rights, freedom of speech and fair elections globally.
The study was requested by the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI).
Interpol has introduced reforms since 2015 to guard against the misuse of Red Notices, and to provide redress to affected individuals. These reforms included a policy for recognised refugees, and a strengthened review process of requests for Red Notices.
Although positive impacts have been observed from the reforms, the European Parliament and other organisations have continued to emphasise the need for more legal safeguards and for better implementation of the reforms.
The study: Key findings
The study requested by the DROI was based on available literature from Interpol and other organisations, as well as interviews conducted with Interpol, the European Commission and other relevant organisations.
Key findings highlighted some successes of the recent reforms, as well as areas for improvement.
Successes of current reforms
The study indicates that since the implementation of the reforms in 2015:
- Interpol’s vetting process has improved
- Red Notice requests are now vetted before publication
- Redress to affected individuals has improved
- The refugee policy has made a positive impact
- The processing time for handling cases has improved
Shortcomings of current reforms
- Despite improvements, Interpol’s vetting process remains inconsistent
- Abuses continue to be observed in a range of cases, including concerning refugees
- There are significant challenges with effectively updating information about Red Notices, which sometimes remain in effect in national databases despite having been updated and removed by Interpol
- Transparency remains a challenge – little access is available to information about the overall handling of Red Notices, including the countries making these requests, how many requests are accepted and refused, the grounds for refusal, and which countries perform better or worse in terms of acceptance or refusal of their requests.
Recommendations for strengthening the Red Notice system
The study makes a number of recommendations to strengthen the Red Notice system and prevent misuse.
- Further develop the legal framework to ensure consistent handling of Red Notices and Diffusions
- Take further steps towards fully implementing the reforms since 2015 – includes expanding resources, improving processes of vetting and handling system updates, and holding National Central Bureaus (NCBs) accountable for their misapplication of Interpol rules and regulations
- Ensure that Interpol has effective control over information which it allows to flow through its communication system
- Interpol should take appropriate steps to ensure full implementation of the refugee policy – includes development and communication of a procedure for member countries to communicate and prove refugee status of an individual
- Interpol should provide access to independent redress regarding decisions of the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF) – e.g. appointing an oversight body to review any complaints and recommend reforms
- Interpol should liaise with data protection agencies in EU Member States to educate and inform that the NCBs are subject to national data protection laws and regulations and not only those of Interpol. Each NCB must have a Data Protection Officer and NCBs should be held accountable for failing to delete data following a request from Interpol.
- Ensure a uniform interpretation of legal instruments and agreements for data exchange between national authorities and Interpol in line with the Law Enforcement Data Protection Directive EU 2016/680
- The EU could develop a list of best practices on how to act on Red Notices including conducting risk assessments and applying consistent human rights standards
- The EU could help to avoid human rights violations by funding projects to improve transparency of the processing and screening of Red Notices
- The EU could engage in bilateral initiatives with member countries outside of the EU that cause the biggest problems with the Red Notice system
- The EU could focus on addressing wrongful Notices to get them deleted
- Increase transparency of the activities of police authorities in member states and their relationships with international organisations and third countries in dealing with Red Notices and Diffusions
Whilst reforms introduced since 2015 have helped to strengthen the review and vetting process of requests for Red Notices, and taken steps to provide redress to affected individuals including refugees, a recent independent study shows that there is still significant room for improvement. Both Interpol, the EU and other member states need to work together to ensure full implementation of the reforms, as well as taking further steps to ensure greater transparency within the Red Notice system, better control over information and stronger data protection, and other initiatives to help prevent abuse of the system and avoid human rights violations.