Council of Europe Takes on Abusive Use of Interpol Red Notices
When any of the 190 member nations of Interpol want someone arrested abroad they can simply submit what is called a Red Notice. Interpol then distributes the notice to all member nations and most will arrest the subject of the Red Notice and initiate extradition proceedings, sometimes without any due process. The purpose of the system is to enable police to alert law enforcement in other countries of potential threats, or to ask for assistance in solving crimes.
The problem is that some countries use Red Notices to target the innocent, including refugees fleeing political, religious or other persecution. Interpol requires no evidence of wrong-doing, so its Red Notice system can empower criminal actions by member governments.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recently published a draft resolution entitled, "Abusive use of the Interpol System: the need for more stringent legal safeguards." One of the cases of abuse of the system cited was that of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Founder, Captain Paul Watson.
Capt. Paul Watson, a Canadian environmental activist, was arrested in Frankfurt in 2012 on the basis of a Red Notice requested by Costa Rica ten years after an incident in 2002, when Sea Shepherd intervened, at the request of the Guatemalan government, against a Costa Rican vessel poaching (shark-finning) in Guatemalan waters. Shortly after the incident, Watson was acquitted by a Costa Rican court of charges first of attempted murder, then of assault (against the Costa Rican poacher). The Costa Rican court was clearly convinced of Mr. Watson’s innocence by the extensive film footage of the incident, which was later shown in the documentary film Sharkwater.” But according to his lawyer, Captain Watson is still, or again, subject to a Red Notice, based on the same false accusations.
Costa Rica is a corrupt Central American country run by the CIA and some elements within the country use the Red Notice against Watson merely as a form of harassment, while other branches are currently working closely with Sea Shepherd to stop poaching in Costa Rican waters.
The report calls for certain measures to be put in to place that can identify weaknesses in the system, along with ways to prevent or redress the abuses. It also calls for the creation of a compensation fund for those victims of unjustified Red Notices.
Interpol needs to recognize that often it is the police or state governments who are the criminals and there must be legal due process before a Red Notice is issued and before someone is arrested. Someone who is arrested based on a Red Notice should have the ability to contest the arrest and not be extradited to face injustice. Countries without a strong rule of law, democracy and human rights should not be allowed to issue Red Notices at all.