Legal support in international prosecution and extradition.

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Pre-emptive request to INTERPOL

By using preventative requests to INTERPOL in conjunction with other services to assert your rights, you will be able to:

  • minimise the risks of arrest in the event of an unlawful international search;
  • legally protect yourself and your interests in the present;
  • lay the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous future

The Pre-emptive request to INTERPOL from the Legal Status collegium is a mechanism of proactive actions aimed at preventing the unlawful or unjustified use of the international search system against the interests of our clients. For more examples of the increasing misuse of INTERPOL networks and databases, see our article "Abuse of INTERPOL". Preventive request is designed to significantly reduce or even eliminate the risks of sudden arrest. It is most relevant in the following cases:

1)     the recent arrest in absentia against you;

2)      the investigative authorities have filed a request for a preventive measure with the court, or are planning to do so in the near future (also in absentia);

3)      there is information or suspicion about the criminal case, but your status in it and the process are unknown (no access to a lower or the case files).

Being proactive is critical

Amidst the increase in both the number and the varieties of political repressions in the post-Soviet region as well as globally, many who have flee their country believe they are no longer in danger. As a consequence, they neglect pre-emptive legal mechanisms. However, the preventive measure is relevant even for obvious political dissidents and public activists whose persecution is clearly politically motivated.

Despite the fact that extradition in such cases is practically impossible, even those who have already been recognised as political refugees often remain in the databases of INTERPOL due to the fact there is no direct interaction between migration services and international police. Once the red notice is detected, the wanted person is very likely to be automatically taken into custody and risks staying in the local migration prison for the entire period of the proceedings. Furthermore, the review period can be very long, sometimes more than a year.

Some countries prefer to be cautious and detain a person until all the circumstances are clarified, even if they provide a refugee status document issued in another country. For example, such cases have repeatedly occurred in Germany. Of course, thanks to the previously recognised international protection, the arrest usually did not last long (from a few days to a couple of weeks), but any deprivation of liberty is an extremely stressful situation. The requirements for the detention system do not apply to the airport's detention centre, and in fact, when a red notice is detected, people are forced to spend several days there, often in completely unacceptable conditions of detention. This is why it is so significant to take every available opportunity to build your proactive legal position and minimise the likelihood of even temporary detention as much as possible.

Preventing detentions through early engagement with INTERPOL

To the best of our knowledge, Legal Status was the first law firm to independently develop the tactic of filing pre-emptive requests with INTERPOL over seven years ago and began actively introducing it to the international search legal services market as an essential defence strategy tool. Understanding the harmful impact that an unfairly issued Red Notice can have on a person's freedom, reputation and ability to travel, extradition experts and human rights activists have become actively involved in the development of this legal service. Today it is offered by the majority of lawyers and law firms working in this area.

Such a preemptive step can be crucial to your personal security, as it can create a defence barrier against detention on both politically motivated and simply far-fetched charges. Choosing active resistance tactics over passive anxiety not only reduces the immediate threat of arrest, but also preserves cross-border mobility and, just as importantly, your business and financial reputation.

This preventive request, like all others, is sent to the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL Files (CCF). But the General Secretariat plays a much bigger role here, since they are the ones who can temporarily block any processing of data sent by the authorities of a particular country concerning the wanted person — and blocking data is what we’re aiming to do. We request them to impose a block until the Commission has considered additional arguments that the disputed data does not comply with INTERPOL rules and international human rights conventions.

Our INTERPOL Pre-emptive request service includes:

  • Consultation
    First of all, you need to send us your application and a brief description of your situation for a preliminary consultation to assess the possible risks and prospects for mitigation. The consultation includes analysing the relevance of the Pre-emptive request and determining the best date to send it to the Commission (not too early, but not too late), taking into account all the data you have. Our experts will inform you about all the documents required for the request, the deadlines, the procedure and other details.
  • Analysing the materials
    The preparation of a preventive request involves a thorough analysis of the material you have provided and the development of a list of prospective arguments in favour of blocking the data, the same as in the process of preparing a request for deletion of data from INTERPOL. Such research can be arranged not only as part of a contract for the preparation of a request, but also as a separate service.
  • Preparation of the request
    The preparation process generates a brief but potentially persuasive set of arguments for the Commission and the General Secretariat to temporarily block data that may appear in the INTERPOL database. For a request to work it must be short, factual and take into consideration current legal practice. That is why Legal Status has a highly qualified lawyer working on each request, and in complex cases several lawyers. The average time for the preparation of a Pre-emptive request, taking into account the analysis of materials and all approvals, takes about 1-2 weeks. The request is prepared in English.
  • Text approval - you will be able to fully familiarise yourself with the text of the request before sending it. You will have an opportunity to ask questions on all unclear points and make suggestions. We will add any relevant corrections we can find with your help.
  • Finalisation - all the agreed requests are additionally checked by a proof-reader of legal documents.
  • Submitting a request to the Commission – we send the request to the Commission in electronically. The original power of attorney signed by you is send to Lyon by mail.
  • Support of clients – the procedure for processing Pre-emptive requests is initially equivalent to processing an access request and takes about 4 months. Upon receipt of data from the initiating country, the Commission will proceed with the adjustment/deletion methodology. Since it is difficult to predict in advance exactly when a country will send its set of documents to INTERPOL (varying from a few weeks to several years in different cases), the timeframe for processing a preventive request can sometimes stretch for years. During this time, we will correspond with the Commission and will stay in touch with you until we receive a decision from the House of Enquiry on the merits of the application. All received answers and other important information will be sent to you by our client managers, and our lawyers can explain the development of the situation. Customer support includes consulting not only on response letters, but also in case of any new circumstances. Among the latter may be those about which INTERPOL should be additionally informed.

Such a preventive measure allows ensuring a person's right to protection by preventing a possible violation of his rights and freedoms as a result of the placement of a Red Card (Red Notice) or Dissemination (Diffusion), which, when submitted by the National Central Bureau (NCB) of the initiator country, may turn out to be unfounded or unlawful. The request underlines the importance of compliance with national and international legal norms, as well as INTERPOL legislation, including the INTERPOL Constitution and the INTERPOL Data Processing Rules (RPD).

In addition, the request asks the Commission to inform us of any future Red Notice or Dissemination requests related to the applicant provided by the NCBs of the country concerned. This enables the Legal Status team to respond promptly to possible threats to the legal status of the client and to take proactive measures as part of its legal support to the clients.

Is it possible to submit such a request yourself?

The INTERPOL preliminary notification can also be prepared independently, in a free form. However, Legal Status strongly advises against such experiments. We do not ask you to specifically contact our specialists, but it is essential to do this work with the help of a specialised lawyer or legal counsel. Without experience in working with international legal institutions and without knowing the specifics of INTERPOL's current practice on preventive requests, it is easy to waste the possibility of temporarily blocking the search by acting proactively due to a number of factors, such as:

  • the particular lack of transparency in the procedures for INTERPOL's processing of pre-emptive requests;
  • periodic changes in the approaches of the Commission and the Secretary General;
  • the overall difficulty of successfully utilising INTERPOL's appeal mechanisms;
  • the de facto impossibility not only of future appeals, but also of a second attempt at a preventive request.

As far as we know, until 2023, the General Secretariat blocked all Red Cards and Diffusions for which there was a pre-emptive request in the database (there were even suggestions by lawyers that the blocking is automatic). According to the CCF Charter and the Organization's Constitution, the Commission is responsible for preventing abuse and misuse of the INTERPOL Information System. Thanks to this, preventive measures were extremely effective, and it was quite realistic to prepare them on our own.

But since the beginning of 2023, even high-quality pre-emptive requests do not always work as they should. They are still being successfully processed by the Commission, which assigns a unique reference number to each case and transmits it to the Secretary General. But after the transfer, when a Red Card or Distribution appears, two scenarios may arise:

1. the Pre-emptive request has been processed by the secretariat and interim measures have been introduced for the case before the case is considered by the Commission;

2. there is no visible result.

In the latter case, no temporary blocking measures are imposed and the person will remain in the search databases for at least a year (until a future decision by the Commission on the deletion of their data). Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to determine with certainty the criteria by which the INTERPOL Information System will suspend countries' access to your information in some cases and not in others. But it is clear that the quality of the request has become much more important than it was a couple of years ago. The lawyers of our team take this new reality into account and always do their best to ensure that the arguments for our clients are convincing and fully considered.

Preventative has been filed, what's next?

Upon receipt of a preventive application, the File Control Commission initially acts in the same way as for a request for access to information. Within approximately one month, it decides whether the application is admissible. FCC then has up to four months to contact the NCB of the applicant country to make a decision on the merits of the application.

If during this time the wanted data is entered into INTERPOL's databases, the application will be treated as an ordinary request for deletion and we, as your representative, will be asked to supplement it with more detailed facts, arguments and annexes.

If no trace is found, the request continues to be treated as a Pre-emptive Request. In any case, all correspondence requested and the information contained therein shall be transmitted to the INTERPOL General Secretariat to inform it of possible violations of the rules and for further action to be taken by the General Secretariat itself, in accordance with its procedures. From then on, the reasoning we provide can be taken into account in any legal compliance check that is carried out in the event of a police request for co-operation through INTERPOL channels.

As far as the Commission is concerned, it does not take any further steps on its part (it started to emphasise this after 2022). That is, it does not independently follow up on the appearance of the Red Card or the Disseminations, nor does it verify on its own initiative the legitimacy of the data that may be obtained after processing a proactive request.

How data is blocked by Pre-emptive Requests

Since 2017, the Secretariat General has another supervisory body, the Notification and Dissemination Task Force (NDTF), established specifically to combat abuse by member states. Upon receipt of information on a wanted person, the NDTF initiates verification according to its own procedures and, if there is a preventive element, takes it into account along with the data provided by the country of origin. If the verification process reveals that the concerns, we have raised are credible, the Secretariat will:

  • either independently recognises the data as non-compliant with the rules (accordingly, the Card will not be published, and if the Distribution was used, it will be cancelled);
  • or temporarily block access by INTERPOL member countries by imposing a precautionary measure (or temporary measure) and refer the case back to the Commission for a more detailed review.

In either of these two cases, the Board will send us a notification to this effect. If the data has not been removed immediately, the Legal Status panel (and accordingly the applicant through our managers) will be informed of the key features and content of the Red Card or Distribution. We are then given a month to prepare a more detailed deletion request and then generally proceed with the normal data challenge procedure, but access to the data remains completely blocked to member states until the end of the review and judgement.

What to do if the plan doesn't work

In the worst-case scenario, the data would not be blocked by the Secretariat General after being forwarded by the country of search. Accordingly, the case will not be referred to the Commission's Chamber of Inquiries for consideration, and we and our client will not be informed.

Therefore, in addition to actually filing the request, basic precautions should continue to be taken (at least until the blocking notice is received), and the absence of an active red notice should be periodically monitored.

Nevertheless, in this case too, a request made in advance can be an advantage for other processes and instances. The response to the request establishes that the person was not trying to hide, but rather was taking active legal action in the exercise of his or her right to a defence. In addition, it is always useful to have a ready set of defence arguments that are applicable under international, rather than national, law.

Getting ahead of the curve

In any case, sending a request will be a much better course of action than, for example, looking for countries that are not yet part of INTERPOL, or that allegedly do not extradite anyone to your wanted country. Even obtaining a new citizenship and changing your surname is not the panacea against persecution abroad that most forced migrants believe it to be. Extradition practices have already changed significantly many times over the past decade, and what lies ahead is definitely more penetration of international police tools around the world, including their database and facial recognition technology.

And it is certainly not a good idea to rely on INTERPOL itself to scrutinise international search requests coming from countries deemed insufficiently legal or dictatorships. In particular, although since 2022 Lyon has started to closely monitor all Red Cards and Distributions from the Russian Federation, and has also started to audit previously announced warrants in order to identify any political component in them, the effect of these measures so far does not appear to be significant. In Legal Status's practice over the years, the number of such Russian cases has even increased, which clearly violate INTERPOL rules, but nevertheless have gone through all the rigorous internal checks in this organisation. Perhaps this is only due to the fact that we have expanded our legal staff and started making more enquiries, but on the whole the situation with abuses by the Russian Federation continues to look rather alarming.

Specific confidentiality requirements

The Legal Status is well-versed not only in how INTERPOL operates in relation to preventives, but also in the risks associated with premature disclosure of sensitive information. Against the background of the impending threat of a search, it is necessary to be especially careful. All information provided by you is available exclusively to employees who have signed the NDA, and all lawyers are well aware of the consequences of all legal steps that can be taken. This principle is firmly adhered in both the process of working on the enquiry and in the further accompaniment of the clients.

The same principles of confidentiality prevent us from disclosing all the details of cases in which requests submitted "in advance" were successfully utilised and helped to avoid the inclusion in the international wanted list of the persons who contacted us. But you can read the impersonal examples in the "Practice" section. Those where the procedure includes a preventive enquiry are labelled accordingly.

Other services related to requests to the Commission:

Checking for wanted status – Fears are not always justified and if you are not completely sure about the existence of the Red Notice, we can help you find out exactly whether your data is already in the INTERPOL Information System before moving on to complex services. Read more about accessing your data.

Data deletion request – if the information about the search has already reached INTERPOL and it has not removed it on its own initiative, you will have to make every effort to remove it. Read more about removal from INTERPOL.

Request for reconsideration – if you have received a refusal from the Commission to delete the data, it does not mean that you have been found guilty. INTERPOL does not have the power to consider the merits of a case, so a negative decision does not mean that a person has been found guilty. Although there is no possibility of appeal or appeal, it is possible to remedy the situation by trying to delete the data again through a retrial. Fighting for your rights in this case will be many times more difficult than in the main attempt, but it is also quite possible. Read more about the requirements.

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