Understanding INTERPOL Red Notices

22 Apr 2022

Introduction with a Case example:

What are they and how to get them removed? The arrest and imprisonment of Hakeem Al- Araibi, former Bahraini national and football player, has gained attention worldwide. Al – Araibi fled Bahrain in 2014 and was granted refugee status in Australia. He was then arrested after travelling to Thailand and has now spent over 60 days inside a Bangkok prison. It was reported that Al-Araibi was arrested on the basis of an Interpol red notice that was requested by Bahrain, and despite the red notice being withdrawn, Bahrain has formally filed extradition documents while Al Araibi remains in jail. The issue of Al- Araibi being jailed and tortured if extradited to Bahrain remains at large. Al – Araibi’s case raises important questions about how this arrest was able to take place. This case has also highlighted the concerns about some states’ misuse of Interpol red notices to pursue refugees. 


What is an Interpol red notice? 

There is a common misconception that arises when talking about Interpol red notices. It is believed to be arrest warrants, which they are not. Interpol is an international organization consisting of 194 member states and the main purpose of its creation is to strengthen police cooperation worldwide. It does not have the power to arrest or detain any individual by itself. Interpol does, however, coordinate and International Notice System which allows law enforcement in member state countries to be able to share information about an individual that is critical. This system is how Interpol publishes and issues red notices. A red notice is essentially a request by Interpol on behalf of the one-member state to all member states in order to locate a suspected or convicted individual. The member state then takes certain measures to hasten a surrender and an arrest to the state requesting it, which is usually done through an extradition proceeding. This system, however, is not legally binding and member states are not legally obligated to arrest an individual based on a red notice alone. Interpol recognized that every member state has the ability to decide for itself what legalities to give a red notice within their borders.  The practical effect a red notice brings with it can include a travel ban which will make international travel extremely risky, if it is attempted, the suspected individual in question will be stopped and the member state that requested the red notice shall be notified of the individual’s location. It is likely that a request for extradition will follow. There are currently about 62,000 valid red notices approximately, of which only 7,000 are public. In certain situations where the public’s help is needed to be able to locate a suspected individual, a public red notice is published on Interpol’s website


How do you challenge a Red Notice?

There are currently two steps on how to challenge a Red Notice.

1. Pre-Emptive Letter 

In the circumstance that an individual gets tipped when a member state will approach Interpol to request a publication of a Red Notice, it is possible to send a pre-emptive letter to Interpol ahead of the member state requesting it – and they can set out reasons why the publication of the Red Notice would violate Interpol’s rules. 

2. Request for deletion with full representations 

In a different circumstance, an individual may not have an advanced warning and may not have knowledge about a member state’s intention to publish a Red Notice until after it has been published. In cases like these, a request for deletion may be submitted to the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF). The CCF is considered an independent body within Interpol’s organization and it ensures that all personal data that is processed by the organization complies with the rules that Interpol set. Requests for deletion are usually much more detailed than a Pre-Emptive letter and they may be supported by evidence, such as a report produced by NGOs. The CCF request chamber meets every three months and will usually consider the representations at one of its meetings. 


Arguments to challenge a Red Notice 

There are two important documents for the purpose of challenging a Red Notice. That is: 

1. Interpol’s Rules on the Processing of Data (RPD) and its constitution. 

The RPD has set out the minimum requirements when a red notice is published, which must include a clear description of the criminal activities of the person that is wanted. This can be demonstrated as providing adequate evidence to showcase the criminal activities of the individual in question. Interpol usually does not hold detailed reports of any allegation or its credibility, but the red notice against the individual can be disregarded if it can be proven that the given case holds no foundation and credibility. 

2. Non-compliance with Interpol’s constitution. 

If there is a non – compliance with Interpol’s constitution proven, it can offer another basis to argue for deletion of a Red Notice. Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) which is the right to life, requires Interpol to act in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights arguments will usually often look at how the individual in question will be treated if the Red Notice is acted upon and they are extradited to the requesting member state.    Will they be likely held in prison with poor conditions? Will they be subjected to torture? Are there serious doubts about their right to receive a fair trial? Article 3 of the ECHR forbids Interpol from undertaking interventions or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character. This clause is heavily relied upon by individuals targeted due to their religious or political beliefs, and any criminal case against them is in the manifest of this persecution. Therefore, the reliance on Article 3 will be most effective if it is combined with an argument that there holds no evidence of possible participation. 



The issue of the misuse of Red Notices to target refugees has been a growing concern.  The case of Hakeem Al- Araibi is not an isolated incident. An example of high-profile red notice individuals includes:  the arrest and capture of Russian activist Petr Silaev in Spain, Indian refugee Paramjeet Sing in Portugal, and Algerian human rights lawyer Rachid Mesli in Italy. Reforms have been introduced in order to address these issues including a new Interpol refugee Policy 2015. The policy states that a red notice should not be issued against a refugee when it has been requested by the country from which the refugee fled initially. Due to this, Al- Araibi’s confirmed refugee status meant Interpol should have rejected Bahrain’s request for a red notice.