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What to do if you are issued with a Red Notice for your Arrest

By Cheryl Low

What is a red notice alert?

Interpol is an organisation consisting of 194 member countries working together to fight international crime. Various investigative tools have been developed to achieve Interpol’s aims including a system of notices issued by Interpol and disseminated to its member countries. 

A red notice is a request by a law enforcement agency in a member country to locate and arrest a wanted person accused or convicted of a crime. 

A member country makes a request to Interpol to issue a red notice, providing information of the wanted person and their alleged crimes. If this request is accepted by Interpol, the information provided by the member country is shared with all 194 member countries. As there is no discretion in a red notice request to share the information with specific member countries, there may be security risks and implications to the individual if their information is shared with potentially non-friendly member countries (e.g. a person may have a fear for their loss of their life or their families’ following a successful asylum application). 

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If a member country believes the wanted person resides in a specific country or region, they may prefer to pursue a diffusion notice instead. A diffusion notice is similar to a red notice, it is an alert requesting for another member country to arrest a wanted person, but the diffusion notice, and information regarding the wanted person and their alleged crime, is disseminated to specific Interpol member countries only. 

What happens if a wanted person is located?

Once a wanted person is located in an Interpol member country, Interpol and the country requesting the red notice are informed. The wanted person is then arrested, monitored or their movements are restricted in accordance with the laws of the country they were located in, pending formal extradition proceedings. 

If you believe there is a red notice issued against you, the requesting member country will endeavour to seek your extradition. Therefore, you should prepare for potential extradition proceedings to take place imminently. 

How long can I be detained for if I am arrested?

If a person has been arrested on a red notice, the requesting member country must prepare a formal extradition bundle for extradition proceedings to take place. Extradition proceedings may take place if there is an existing formal arrangement between the member countries (e.g. European Arrest Warrants, International Treaties). If there is no formal arrangement in place, member countries may try to negotiate an ad-hoc MoU (“memorandum of understanding”) for extradition. If none is forthcoming, then the person must be released in accordance with the laws of the Interpol member country. 

The period of detention is very much dependent on the laws of the Interpol member country the wanted person was located. There may be a possibility of bail, usually with strict conditions attached, pending extradition proceedings. 

What happens if I am not extradited?

A red notice is valid for 5 years unless they are withdrawn by the requesting member country or the General Secretariat of Interpol decides otherwise. However, the requesting member country can renew the red notice if the person is still wanted before the 5 years expire.   If a wanted person is not successfully extradited from one member country, they can still be arrested on the same red notice in another Interpol member country, until the red notice is removed. 

How can I remove a red notice?

Challenges of a red notice can be made directly to the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files (“CCF”). Common challenges include persuading the CCF that the red notice was issued by the requesting member country due to the wanted person’s political affiliation, military, religious or racial characteristics. Breaches of international standards of human rights can also be raised to remove the red notice.  

Often overlooked, a red notice can also be removed by persuading the requesting member country that the red notice is not necessary. 

Do I need a lawyer to challenge a red notice?

Challenging or removing a red notice is a complex process involving liaising with international experts, organisations and law enforcement agencies to build the best case. Lawyers with expertise in extradition, human rights and criminal law, with a network of contacts at NGOs and experts are best placed to assist a wanted person. 

Cheryl Low, a senior solicitor at Twelve Tabulae, has direct experience with red notice applications, extradition and human rights claims, offering unique insights into challenging red notices and extradition from her background as a prosecutor at the Serious Fraud Office.