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Living as an Interpol "Fugitive"

The UAE has issued Interpol red notices against individuals who are parties to civil disputes, have had business disagreements or financial issues. Counter parties to such disputes usually use the criminal justice system in the UAE, rather than the usual civil justice avenue that most countries would insist upon.

Individuals have learned to live with their new "international fugitive" status. It may have been a shock at first, when they realised they were listed amongst terrorists and other serious criminals, but they soon realise that UAE warrants for non serious crimes are quite common.

The role of Interpol is simply to locate “fugitives” and advise the issuing country of their location. The issuing country may then request an extradition from the hosting country. Once Interpol´s role is fulfilled, it stands to reason that the red notice should be automatically removed. This has not been the case, meaning some people have had to live with such notices for almost a decade.

Interpol is failing in their duty as administrators and owners of this database, failing to follow even their own guidelines. If Interpol fails to remove a notice once a party has been located, they allow the issuing country to ¨jurisdiction shop”. Some countries are more likely to agree an extradition than others and therefore, if a “fugitive” is located in the USA, the UAE is unlikely to apply for extradition but will encourage Interpol to retain the records, in case the wanted person is located somewhere more favourable in the future.

In the past three months, we have seen an Indian national detained in Greece on the basis of an Interpol notice. The UAE was advised of his whereabouts, but declined to pursue extradition and so the Indian man was released and permitted to exit Greece. His name remains on the Interpol database. Others have only experienced delays at airports such as Canada and the USA. They were not delayed at the airport for more than a few hours and travel there on a regular basis. It seems that neither the UAE, Interpol or cooperating member states, take red notices seriously, despite what Hollywood may have us believe.

Travel disruptions, temporary detentions & the fear of extradition aside, living with an Interpol notice has other side effects, including the effect on one's professional reputation, the frustration of the inability to defend one’s self against false allegations and the actual costs of professional advice and representation. With these considerations in mind, financial and actual accountability of the Interpol body and its member states, needs to be established. Without legal accountability, Interpol and its members are free to, and will continue to, abuse human rights.

Anyone who has been subjected to an Interpol Red Notice, will need to take action to have it removed and will need a plan on how to deal with the restrictive elements of being listed on Interpol, such as low risk travel itineraries. A common issue for people living with Interpol notices is the restrictions that it can place on travel to specific locations, immigration applications, travel delays and denials of entry in some circumstances. Extradition proceedings pose another potential risk and we have assisted in seven extradition requests from the UAE this year, all of which have been denied. We have also provided expert testimony specific to Interpol Red Notice abuse in non extradition court proceedings.

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