Archive | INTERPOL

Arrest warrant for Julian Assange

Several days ago, Sweden issued an arrest warrant against Julian Assange for rape. Today, that warrant went global, thanks to the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).

While some in the media have reported that Interpol itself issued an arrest warrant, that claim is not precisely accurate. Interpol, which is based in Lyon, France, has no law enforcement powers, and thus cannot issue warrants. Rather, Interpol’s purpose is to share information among different national police agencies, subject to whatever restrictions the originating agency wishes to impose. (For example, the United States does not allow Iran, Cuba, Sudan, or Syria to access fingerprints which it has provided to Interpol.) Interpol also provides expert forensic or investigative services, such  as bomb scene analysis, when requested by police agencies.

Regarding Assange, Interpol today issued a  “Red Notice.” According to the Red Notice, the warrant was issued by the International Public Prosecution Office in Gothenburg, Sweden.

As I detail in the monograph I am writing on Interpol, when a nation (here, Sweden) requests Interpol to issue a Red Notice,  the nation affirms that there is, in that nation, a valid arrest warrant or court order for that person, and that the nation will seek extradition of the person if he is apprehended. Before Interpol publishes the Red Notice, Interpol staff review the application to ensure that there really is a validly-issued arrest warrant or court order, and that publication of the Red Notice would not drag Interpol into political, military, religious, or racial issues, which are forbidden by Article 3 of Interpol’s Constitution.

Countries make their own decisions about how to treat a Red Notice. Some countries treat a Red Notice as an actionable request for an arrest; the United States does not.  In 2008, Interpol published 3,126 Red Notices.

Interpol cautions that […]

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Interpol Realism

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of concern in some quarters about President Obama’s Executive Order extending certain legal immunities to Interpol. These concerns are misplaced. I am currently writing a research paper on Interpol, which will cover the immunities, and many other issues. In the meantime, some preliminary clarifications:

Interpol has no authority to make arrests or seize property. Interpol is purely an organization for data exchange and analysis. Interpol employees in the United States (or anywhere else) have no authority to conduct any activities except as allowed by the host government. The Obama Executive Order adds nothing to Interpol’s non-existent law enforcement authority.

Interpol’s entire US presence consists of a five-person office in New York City for liaison with the United Nations. Under the Obama order, the premises and documents of this NYC office are absolutely immune from search and seizure. Pursuant to the International Organizations Immunities Act, passed by Congress in at the time the United Nations was being set up, seventy other international organizations in the US have immunities identical to those now possessed by Interpol. The presence of the UN was obviously going to lead to the establishment of US offices for many international organizations, and Congress want to regularize the procedures and immunities for such organizations.

Unlike standard international organizations, Interpol was not created by a treaty, and its membership consist of police agencies, not nations per se. So one could make the legal argument that Interpol is not an international organization. However, both the United Nations and the United States have taken the position that Interpol qualifies as an international organization.

Interpol requested the full set of IOIA immunities in 2005. In 2008, the US State Department approved the request, but the White House did not get around […]

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