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Dallas, U.S.A-From its headquarters in Lyon, France, INTERPOL’s police network spans its 190 member countries enabling it to consistently assist in the pursuit of fugitives for both high profile and lesser-known crimes. As a result of years of films and novels glamorizing INTERPOL agents as fast-draw superheroes, there is still some public confusion regarding what they do and how they do it.
One of INTERPOL’s most effective “tools” is the Red Notice, which has assisted in the apprehension of thousands of wanted persons this past year.Last month, Luka Magnotta was charged with murdering his former lover, Jun Lin, in Montreal, Canada, and mailing body parts to the Canadian Prime Minister and schools around that country. Canadian police identified Magnotta as the probable killer and issued their warrant for his arrest copying INTERPOL through its National Central Bureau in Ottawa.
Hours later, the warrant seeking Magnotta’s arrest had been reviewed by INTERPOL, translated into INTERPOL’s four official languages (English, French, Spanish, Arabic), attached to a Red Notice and electronically circulated to all 190 INTERPOL members. The Red Color of INTERPOL’s emblem on the Notice signals police to stop the person and determine if their national laws will permit the fugitive to be detained until Canada can seek his formal extradition.
When you operate in 190 countries with different legal systems, languages and relationships with one another, you must have a system that is easy to understand and use. The system must also respect the sovereign right of each member country to decide if and how it wishes to cooperate with judicial authorities and police of another country. For this reason, the INTERPOL Red Notice is not an arrest warrant and is not binding on an INTERPOL member country unless that country decides to make it binding.
Its purpose is to provide countries with information to protect their borders and citizens from fugitives seeking to enter their country while being hunted internationally. The Red Notice has been described as a Wanted Poster with teeth that appears around the world in minutes and includes a picture of the accused, a description of the offense, a supporting arrest warrant and a commitment by the country requesting it to seek the extradition of the person sought.
Magnotta had flown from Montreal to Paris before authorities were aware of his crime, so he was not stopped at either airport as he would have been had the Red Notice been distributed before his attempted flight. Meanwhile, because of the sensational nature of the crime, the story reached the public through media reports even as police in many countries searched.Two days later, Magnotta, who had arrived by bus, visited an Internet cafe in Berlin. The cafe’s owner and other customers immediately recognized him. Police were called and he was in custody in a matter of minutes. ”Public awareness and public support for police in the search for any criminal is perhaps the most important advantage our society maintains, whether hunting terrorists or those accused of individual horrendous crimes like Magnotta,” said INTERPOL’s Secretary-General Ronald K. Noble.
Meanwhile, 5,700 miles from Germany in Cambodia, Alexander Trofimov, a Russian national, was being arrested by authorities responding to a Red Notice issued by INTERPOL at the request of Russia. Trofimov, a known pedophile, was wanted by Russia for sex crimes against children.
Former Colombian model Angie Sanclemente Valencia, also the subject of a Red Notice, was suspected of recruiting young women to smuggle cocaine from Argentina to Europe via Mexico. She was arrested in Buenos Aires by Argentinean police after INTERPOL’s Fugitive Investigative Support (FIS) unit, working with police in Buenos Aires, Bogota and Mexico City, provided information to Argentinean police on her whereabouts and travel plans. After her arrest, INTERPOL’s Secretary-General Noble said, “This case has proven to be a perfect model of international police co-operation, combining action by our National Central Bureaus on the ground and our ability to instantly share information on wanted persons via our Fugitive Unit at our Lyon headquarters.”
INTERPOL will issue Red Notices only “if it is satisfied that all the conditions for processing the information have been fulfilled.” For example, a Notice will not be published if it violates Article 3 of the INTERPOL Constitution, forbidding any intervention or activities of a predominantly “political, military, religious or racial character.”
This past year, INTERPOL declined a request by Egypt to issue Red Notices for 15 individuals – 12 American, 2 Lebanese and 1 Jordanian national – with links to several US-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) after ruling that Egypt’s request was a political matter.
In 2011, 7,958 persons were arrested or detained following the publication of INTERPOL Notices. Among the notable successes were:
-Joran Van der Sloot, a Dutch national suspected in Aruba in the case of the missing American Natalee Holloway. He was arrested in Chile after circulation of a Red Notice based on warrants issued by Peru and the United States. His transfer in custody wearing an INTERPOL flak jacket was seen worldwide.
-Austrian police arrested and extradited Ali Achekzai, an Afghani national, based on a Red Notice and INTERPOL’s matching of a DNA linking him to violent sexual attacks in California over a seven-year period.
-Dragan Vasiljkovic, a suspected Bosnian war criminal and the subject of a Red Notice issued at the request of Croatia, was arrested in Australia and extradited.
“People must remember that INTERPOL’s strength comes from countries where fugitives have fled alerting police worldwide via INTERPOL Red Notices to use their national powers and judicial authorities to identify, locate and detain these dangerous fugitives before they can do more harm or escape justice. All too often, local authorities don’t get enough credit for their outstanding law enforcement work,” says Secretary-General Noble.
Image Courtesy of Interpol