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Interpol red notices systematically abused for malign purposes, says British MP

The entrance hall of Interpol's headquarters in Lyon, France. British MP Alicia Kearns raised questions on Monday about the possible abuse of the agency's red notices. AP

Tariq Tahir

7 Aug 2023

Alicia Kearns, the chairwoman of parliament's foreign affairs committee, called for the agency to provide more information on those being targeted for arrest

Interpol’s system of red notices is being abused by governments to pursue political opponents, the chairwoman of the British parliament’s foreign affairs committee has said.

Alicia Kearns accused the international crime fighting body of failing in its duty to stop the notices being used as “a tool of transnational repression”.

An Interpol red notice asks authorities worldwide to provisionally detain people pending possible extradition or other legal actions, but is not an international arrest warrant.

But while most of the notices are issued for criminals, concerns have been raised that Interpol is not doing enough to prevent the system being abused, particularly by China and Russia.

“There’s no question that within the British Parliament we have grave concerns that Interpol is being abused,” Ms Kearns told the Sky News Dirty Work podcast.

“Whether it be for ideological reasons, whether it be for personal interests of important individuals within certain countries, whether it be to silence voices or whether it be for the domestic interests of hostile regimes.”

The podcast highlighted the case of Bill Browder, an American-born UK citizen who is a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin and has been targeted by Russia with red notices.

It also heard from Brian Glendinning, a British oil worker jailed in Iraq alongside terrorists because of an Interpol red notice issued by Qatar five years ago over a bank debt he owed in the country.

“If we can sit here and name four British nationals off the top of our heads who have had malign red notices against them, that suggests there is a systemic problem,” she said.

Bill Browder was targeted by Russia using Interpol red notices. Bloomberg

Conservative MP Ms Kearns called for Interpol to publish the criteria on which red notices are based and for there to be a “high evidentiary basis” for each one.

“Interpol should also provide a list to the UK government of people that we are worried are being maliciously hunted down, whether it be by the Chinese Communist Party or by the Russians,” she said.

She added that those being targeted and detained maliciously should be treated by the government as “hostages” in those states.

“No one should be able to be pursued because of something that is not a transnational major crime,” she said.

“If it is going to put out an international notice that tells every member state to arrest an individual the moment they step on to their soil to be sent back to another country for justice, Interpol should have to be pretty damn certain of the basis on which they are doing it.”

Alicia Kearns called for the system of red notices to be reformed. Photo: Alicia Kearns

Interpol’s Secretary General Jurgen Stock said the organisation does not publish lists of which countries issue red notices “in the name of international policing co-operation” and could not discuss individual cases.

“It’s sensitive work that we are doing in the interest of global security, to protect people all around the world against crime,” he said.

“We do everything we can to ensure a proper process and that all information that goes through Interpol is properly checked against our rules.

“I think it is a very robust system, and it is a very successful system first and foremost, because it helps almost every day around the world to catch dangerous fugitives, murderers, rapists, those who are exploiting children, drug traffickers.”

Updated: August 08, 2023, 6:11 AM

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