One of Interpol’s most important functions is to help the member countries’ law enforcement organizations communicate with each other about critical crime-related information. An Interpol International Notice is used to help achieve that goal. Based on a request made by the requesting country’s National Central Bureau (NCB), Interpol produces one of seven types of notices in all four of its official languages – English, French, Spanish and Arabic. The notice is circulated worldwide.
1. Red Notice (“International Wanted Notice”)
The legal basis for a Red Notice is the arrest warrant (issued for a person wanted for prosecution) or a court order (issued for a person wanted to serve a sentence) issued by judicial authorities in the concerned country. The notice contains identification information about the subject person such as physical description, photographs and fingerprints if available, occupation, languages spoken and identity documents. The notice may also contain judicial information such as offense with which the person is charged, references to the relevant laws under which the charge is made or conviction was obtained, the maximum penalty that has been or can be imposed, the references of the arrest or of the sentence imposed by the court, and details of the countries from which the requesting country will seek the fugitive’s extradition.
Many of Interpol’s member countries consider a Red Notice as a valid request for provisional arrest. This is particularly true if the requesting country and requested country have a bilateral or multilateral extradition treaty or convention in force with each other. It is even more so if the treaty or convention allows for the use of Interpol channels to forward such requests.
If a Red Notice is considered to be a valid request for a provisional arrest, the appropriate judicial authority in the requested country can make the decision, based on the information in the notice, to have the person provisionally arrested. Subsequent to the arrest, the requesting country is notified of the person’s detention and the formal extradition process can begin.
In the United States, based on the notice alone, federal law prohibits the arrest of the subject of the Red Notice. If the subject is found within the United States, the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, will make a determination if a valid extradition treaty exists between the U.S. and the requesting country for the specified crime or crimes. If the subject is extraditable, and after a diplomatic request for a provisional arrest is received from the requesting country, the facts are communicated to the U.S. Attorney’s Office where the person is located. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will then file a Criminal Complaint and obtain an arrest warrant requesting extradition. If the United States is the requesting country the Red Notice is generated by the US – NCB in coordination with the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The notice will request that the subject be provisionally arrested. The Notice is sent to all 188 Interpol member countries, and is posted at all U.S. border ports of entry. The notice data is also entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). It should be noted that Interpol has the authority to refuse to issue a Red Notice when it is not satisfied that the notice contains all the information needed to formulate a valid request for a provisional arrest. Additionally, a Red Notice may not be issued if Interpol concludes that the request is based on activity of a political, military, religious or racial character.
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2. Blue Notice (“International Request for Information Notice”)
This notice is primarily used for tracing and locating a person when the decision to extradite has not yet been made. It may also be used to verify a person’s identity, to obtain particulars about his criminal record or to locate witnesses to criminal activity.
3. Green Notice (“International Alert Notice”)
This notice is used to provide warnings and criminal intelligence about persons who have committed criminal offenses, and are likely to repeat these crimes in other countries.
4. Yellow Notice (“International Missing Person Notice”)
This notice is used to help locate missing persons, including children, or to help identify persons who may not be able to identify themselves such as a person suffering from amnesia.
5. Black Notice (“International Unidentified Dead Body Notice”)
This notice is used to seek the identity of deceased persons.
6. Orange Notice (“Warning Notice”)
This notice is issued to warn police, public entities and other international organizations about potential threats from disguised weapons, parcel bombs and other dangerous materials.
7. Interpol-United Nations Special Notice
This notice is issued for groups and individuals who are the targets of UN sanctions against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Shortly after its inception in 1923, Interpol began posting notices in its journal, International Public Safety, and subsequently in the International Criminal Police Review. Over time individual paper notices were mailed to the member countries for posting. The first Red Notice was produced in 1946 and the first Yellow Notice in 1949.
In December 2001, Interpol replaced the paper based system with an electronic system. This new system allows all member countries a secure, speedy and efficient means to request and receive Notices in an electronic format. The faster circulation of Notices from and to the NCBs coincided with a new 72 hour production deadline for high priority Notices, such as Notices for terrorists.
Beginning in January 2002, all new Notices are published on Interpol’s restricted-access website. This permits all member countries with electronic capability to access notices directly, and to print copies as needed.