The Platform


Interpol provides a vital service but it can be used against civilians and asylum seekers.

Very broadly, Interpol enables each member country to share and access data on terrorism, cybercrime, and organized crime and offers technical and operational support to state police when necessary.

Interpol’s primary duties are to enact counter-terrorism measures, challenge organized and emerging crime, and investigate and combat cybercrime. Many of the issues that Interpol faces are a result of conflicting country ideals, despite the organization supposedly being free of state constraints. Despite Interpol’s significance as an international policing institution, its ability to be manipulated by non-democratic member states highlights a gaping issue – specifically in the field of human rights.

However, all three of the primary missions of Interpol can easily be manipulated. Inconsistent or false information can lead to the arrest, or even death, of innocent civilians. Specifically, those searching for asylum. Sayed Ahmed Abdellatif is a prime example. In 2012, Interpol issued a Red Notice stating that Sayed Ahmed Abdellatif, an asylum seeker, had been convicted in Egypt in 1999 of premeditated murder and possession of explosives. It was later revealed that this was false, although Abdellatif was still subject to a Red Notice on the lesser charges of his alleged membership of an illegal extremist group and of creating forged travel documents. He denies these allegations. However, to come forward to clear his name would likely result in Ahmed’s death. Interpol later modified the Red Notice against Ahmed.

One of the most common questions that arise when discussing Interpol is how Red Notices are handled in countries without extradition treaties. To begin, extradition is defined as the formal process of one state surrendering an individual to another state “for prosecution or punishment for [a] crime committed in the requesting country’s jurisdiction.” Extradition is not a process present in every country. In fact, it is handled on a country-by-country basis. Extradition treaties are agreements between two or more countries that allow for extradition to occur. Older treaties tend to cover a list of specific offenses that call for extradition – such as the Albania and U.S. agreement signed in 1933 that covers an inventory of more than two dozen crimes, including murder, rape, arson, and burglary. It is up to the countries involved in the agreements to discern the crimes applicable for extradition – if a treaty is formed at all. For example, the U.S. has extradition treaties with more than one hundred countries, some dating back more than a century.

Red Notices are alerts issued for fugitives wanted either for prosecution or to serve a sentence. They are formal requests to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action. Several variables need to be considered when determining if a Red Notice will actually result in the subject’s return to the requesting country. If a Red Notice subject appears in an Interpol member country that has no extradition treaty with the requesting country, it is unlikely that extradition will occur. Some countries pursue detention as an option, where they force the subject to board a plane back to their original country. Other countries choose deportation proceedings, where a subject is required to leave the territory but is allowed to choose their next destination. There also exists the possibility that a Red Notice subject could be transferred for prosecution via diplomatic channels. Oftentimes if a fugitive is returned to the requesting country, even if the states involved do not have a standing extradition treaty, it is done so for consular reasons. For example, the U.S. returned two corruption suspects to China ahead of a high-profile summit between President Barack Obama and Xi Jinping in 2014.

The most prominent, and common, criticism of Interpol is the manipulation of the system by non-democratic states in order to prosecute refugees and political opponents. Red Notices can easily become weapons against refugees seeking asylum in other countries. There is currently no successful mechanism to protect victims of political persecution who were detained in the territory of unsafe countries. These non-democratic states are not held to foundational human rights standards and have not signed any sort of treaty to implement them. They are fully able to ignore the UNHCR’s decisions to grant refugee status and Interpol’s decisions recognizing the political nature of the case. Therefore, refugees can still be extradited despite the threats of torture and death from the requesting country.

Interpol is a valuable intergovernmental organization used to maintain global peace and security. However, this is primarily for citizens belonging to democratic countries. Civilians who attempt to flee a country and seek asylum elsewhere can be the victim of a witch-hunt that involves Interpol as a force against them, rather than one intended to protect them.

Kathryn Parker is a current undergraduate student at Scripps College is Claremont, California. She is majoring in Politics, and minoring in Psychology. She is the Deputy Communications Director of the Scripps Pre-Law society and a member of the Claremont Journal of Law and Public Policy. She hopes to pursue a career in law, more specifically - international relations.