What is INTERPOL and how does it work?

13 Dec 2023, 10 mins ago

In this blog we will explore in more detail what INTERPOL and Red Notices are, look at the ways to challenge a Red Notice, and then consider the important interplay between Red Notices and extradition.

I think I may be subject to a Red Notice, what can I do?

If you fear that you may be subject to an INTERPOL Red Notice, then you are advised to urgently seek expert legal advice. International travel should be avoided because a Red Notice could result in your arrest and detention. Following expert advice, you will be able to explore steps to attempt to properly ascertain:

  1. Whether there is a Red Notice in your name and, if so,
  2. What steps you can take to address this.


The International Criminal Police Organisation (commonly known as INTERPOL) is an inter-governmental organisation which currently has 194 member countries. INTERPOL enables the sharing of data on crimes and criminals among member countries. INTERPOL is essentially a global data-sharing institution. INTERPOL, therefore, has no investigative powers (for example, to warrant an arrest). However, INTERPOL can offer investigative support in locating fugitives across the world.

INTERPOL sits above all its member countries. Points of contact with INTERPOL are provided by an INTERPOL National Central Bureau (“NCB”) in each country, which are run by national police officials.

INTERPOL connects all member countries through a communication system which enables each member country to access the database and services in real time.

The INTERPOL General Secretariat coordinates day-to-day activities.  INTERPOL currently states that it manages 18 police databases (ranging from information about names and fingerprints to stolen passports), which are accessible in real time to all its member countries.

INTERPOL notes that its actions are politically neutral and taken within the limits of existing laws in different countries. However, as will be seen below, there are methods to challenge INTERPOL decisions.

How does INTERPOL work?

INTERPOL shares information on crimes and criminals at the request of member countries. As such, if a member country wants to locate and arrest an individual (with a view to extraditing them back to that country), then they will do so through the INTERPOL system. Thus, all other INTERPOL member states will be alerted that the requesting country seeks the individual’s provisional arrest with a view to extradition.

What is an INTERPOL Red Notice?

A member state acting through its NCB can request that INTERPOL issue a Red Notice to notify all other member states that the requesting state wants to locate a suspect or convicted person and take steps to facilitate their surrender to the requesting state, which is normally done via extradition proceedings. A Red Notice is therefore a request to law enforcement agencies to locate and arrest an individual pending extradition. It is worth noting that it is up to each member state to decide the legal status of a Red Notice, and INTERPOL cannot compel the law enforcement authorities in any country to arrest someone who is the subject of a Red Notice.

What challenges can be made to INTERPOL?

Although INTERPOL notes that its actions are politically neutral, it may be argued that the actions of the member state requesting INTERPOL and associated member states’ assistance are far from it. Indeed, this is one of the areas where a challenge against the issuance of a Red Notice can be deployed. Challenges can additionally be mounted regarding INTERPOL’s processing of data. These are complex areas, and it is always recommended to obtain expert legal advice on the methods and merits of any challenge. Gherson will explore the challenges that can be made in later blog posts.

Red Notices and extradition

As noted above, a Red Notice can be issued prior to a state issuing extradition proceedings against a suspect or convicted individual. However, there is no pre-requirement for a Red Notice to be issued prior to a state requesting extradition proceedings. Therefore, an individual’s extradition can be sought even if there is no Red Notice.

Furthermore, if extradition is sought and refused, it does not necessarily mean that the Red Notice will be removed. The interplay between Red Notices and extradition is a complex area, and, again, it is always recommended to seek expert legal advice. This is another area that will be explored in later blog posts.

Gherson have extensive experience in advising clients facing Red Notices and making submissions and representations to INTERPOL on a broad range of grounds. Gherson can also call on extensive and expert international experience, if required.

If you require any advice on INTERPOL, Red Notices, or extradition, then Gherson’s extradition team will be more than happy to assist. Please do not hesitate to contact us for advice, send us an e-mail, or alternatively, follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn to stay-up-to-date.

The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2023