Imagine the situation at an airport. Law enforcement officers in special uniforms catch some inconspicuous-looking man, who, as it turns out, is a drug muler or a big arms dealer. For years, police from all over the world have been looking for this man, and finally, he has got caught by Interpol. This might look like Interpol’s detention in a feature film. In fact, the Hollywood image of the International Criminal Police Organization does not always coincide with the reality
Interpol does not conduct investigations on its own, its employees do not carry weapons, and in order to attract their attention, it is not necessary to be an arms baron. On November 9, Polish border guards, at Russia's request through Interpol, detained one of the leaders of Ukraine’s UNA-UNSO far-right organization, Donbas veteran Ihor Mazur (nickname Topolya). The Russian Federation accuses him of allegedly fighting against its troops in Chechnya. Later, Poland’s vice-speaker Małgorzata Gosiewska stated that the detention of Mazur was an “exclusively technical” step, and his inclusion in the Interpol arrest register was “a good example of the Kremlin’s use of international law institutions for political revenge.” Based on this, we decided to recall what Interpol is and why you should not catch its eye.
Is Interpol a police force?
Not really. Even though the official name is the International Criminal Police Organization. The main function of Interpol is to compile and maintain various databases that can be used by law enforcement agencies of 194 countries participating in the organization. Ukraine is also on this list.
The official website says that Interpol helps the “police in all of them to work together to make the world a safer place. To do this, we enable them to share and access data on crimes and criminals, and we offer a range of technical and operational support.”
The organization has an extensive database of criminals, stolen and forged documents, fingerprints, DNA, stolen cars, stolen art, and weapons.
“We connect all our countries via a communications system called I-24/7. Countries use this secure network to contact each other, and the General Secretariat. It also allows them to access our databases and services in real-time, from both central and remote locations. We also coordinate networks of police and experts in different crime areas, who come together through working groups and at conferences to share experiences and ideas,” Interpol claims.
The General Secretariat coordinates our day-to-day activities to fight a range of crimes. Run by the Secretary-General, it is staffed by both police and civilians and comprises a headquarters in Lyon, a global complex for innovation in Singapore and several satellite offices in different regions.
In each country, an INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) provides the central point of contact for the General Secretariat and other NCBs. An NCB is run by national police officials and usually sits in the government ministry responsible for policing. The General Assembly is our governing body and it brings all countries together once a year to take decisions.
The General Assembly (meets annually) is the supreme organ of the organization. It is chaired by the elected president of Interpol. Now, this is the representative of South Korea, Kim Jong Yang.
The ongoing work is entrusted to the permanent General Secretariat, which is led by Secretary-General Jürgen Stoke (elected in 2014). The Executive Committee is an advisory body to Interpol.
Shades of wanted
The law enforcement agencies send materials and documents that are directly related to international police cooperation to NCB.
Then the local bureau of Interpol sends this information to the National Central Securities Bureau of other countries and the General Secretariat. It is labeled by hazard category, after which Interpol issues the so-called color notifications, or “notices”:
A Yellow Notice is a global police alert for a missing person. It is published for victims of parental abductions, criminal abductions (kidnappings) or unexplained disappearances. The Yellow Notice can also be used to help identify a person who is unable to identify himself or herself. This is a valuable law enforcement tool that can increase the chances of a missing person being located, particularly if there is a possibility that the person might travel, or be taken, abroad. Police in one of our member countries request a Yellow Notice via their National Central Bureau and provide information on the case. The Notice is then published by the General Secretariat in our database, which alerts police in all our member countries.
A Red Notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.
It contains two main types of information:
Information to identify the wanted person, such as their name, date of birth, nationality, hair and eye color, photographs and fingerprints if available.
Information related to the crime they are wanted for, which can typically be murder, rape, child abuse or armed robbery.
Red Notices are published by INTERPOL at the request of a member country and must comply with INTERPOL’s Constitution and Rules. A Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant. As of today, the organization’s database contains about 58 thousand valid red notifications, about 7 thousand of which are publicly available.
Blue Notice: To collect additional information about a person’s identity, location or activities in relation to a crime.
Black Notice: To seek information on unidentified bodies. Green Notice: To provide a warning about a person’s criminal activities, where the person is considered to be a possible threat to public safety.
Orange Notice: To warn of an event, a person, an object or a process representing a serious and imminent threat to public safety.
Purple Notice: To seek or provide information on modus operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.
INTERPOL–United Nations Security Council Special Notice: Issued for groups and individuals who are the targets of UN Security Council Sanctions Committees.
INTERPOL Notices are international requests for cooperation or alerts allowing police in member countries to share critical crime-related information. Notices are published by the General Secretariat at the request of a National Central Bureau and are made available to all our member countries.