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Saturday, July 04, 2020

Explained: What is an Interpol Red Notice, what does it do?

As many as 18 requests for RNs from India are pending with Interpol, including against fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi, who is, along with his nephew Nirav Modi, a key accused in the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank scam.

, Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: September 1, 2019 6:04:37 pm
Explained: What is an Interpol Red Notice, what do they do? Interpol describes an RN as “a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action”. (Representational Image)

Home Minister Amit Shah has conveyed to Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock that India would like the international police agency to expedite its process of publishing Red Notices (RNs).

As many as 18 requests for RNs from India are pending with Interpol, including against fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi, who is, along with his nephew Nirav Modi, a key accused in the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank scam.

So, what exactly is an RN?

Definition and process

Criminals or suspects often flee to other countries to evade facing justice. An RN alerts police forces across the world about fugitives who are wanted internationally.

Interpol describes an RN as “a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action”.

RNs contain information that helps identify wanted persons, such as their names, dates of birth, nationality, and physical attributes such as the colour of their hair and eyes, as well as pictures and biometric data such as fingerprints, if they are available. RNs also mention the crime(s) they are wanted for.

An RN is published by Interpol at the request of a member country. The fugitives may be wanted for prosecution or to serve a sentence. The country issuing the request need not be the home country of the fugitive; Interpol acts on the request of a country where the alleged crime has been committed.

Number of Red Notices

The Interpol says some 58,000 RNs are currently valid, of which around 7,000 are public. Most RNs are restricted to law enforcement use only.

In cases where the help of the public is needed to locate an individual, or if those individuals pose a threat to public safety, a public extract of the RN is published on the Interpol’s website.

In 2018, Interpol issued 13,516 RNs.

Not a warrant of arrest

The Interpol itself does not want individuals; they are wanted by a country or an international tribunal.

Also, an RN is an international wanted persons’ notice; it is not an international arrest warrant. Which means that the Interpol cannot compel the law enforcement authorities in any country to arrest the subject of an RN. It is up to individual member countries to decide what legal value to give to an RN, and the authority of their national law enforcement officers to make arrests.

Checks and balances

The Interpol says that an RN must comply with its constitution and rules. It says on its website that “every Red Notice request is checked by a specialised task force to ensure it is compliant with (Interpol) rules”.

The Interpol argues that an RN is issued only after a competent court has taken cognisance of a chargesheet against the fugitive.

In the case of Nirav Modi, the CBI filed a chargesheet in May 2018, and Interpol issued an RN in July that year.

However, in the case of Choksi, India has been frustrated: while the chargesheet was filed in June 2018, the RN is yet to be issued.

Importance of RNs

RNs are issued to simultaneously alert police in all member countries about internationally wanted fugitives. An RN can help bring a fugitive to justice, sometimes many years after the crime was committed.

However, because an RN is not an arrest warrant, action against a fugitive frequently rests on the diplomatic clout that the country making the request has with the country where the fugitive is located. Nations with a big international profile, and economic or political heft, are often more successful than the rest.

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