Explained: What is Interpol?

Reading time: 6-8 minutes.

On the eve of 30th December 2019, a man formerly known as “Le Cost Killer” and “Mr Fix It” for his remarkably aggressive downsizing campaigns and spearheading the turnaround of a major automobile company from its near bankruptcy in 1999, became most known for his infamous escape from one of the strictest countries in the world. Carlos Ghosn is a Brazillian born – French citizen of Lebanese ancestry. Ghosn was previously the CEO of Michelin North America, chairman and CEO of Renault, chairman of AvtoVAZ, chairman and CEO of Nissan, and chairman of Mitsubishi Motors.

Ghosn is most known for his remarkable turnaround of Nissan motors from near bankruptcy to high profitability in the early 2000s. On 19th November 2018, Tokyo district prosecutors arrested Ghosn aboard his private jet to question him over allegations of false accounting. Following this, Ghosn was promptly removed from the Nissan and Renault board and was placed under arrest for more than 100 days. He was granted bail under very strict conditions, ones that forced him to remain at a house, under 24-hour camera surveillance and with no internet access.

On 30th December 2019, breaking his bail conditions, Ghosn fled from Japan through his private jet and landed in Lebanon, a country where he was well revered. Ghosn claimed that he would “no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant and basic human rights are denied”, adding that he did not flee justice, but “escaped injustice and political persecution”.

Japanese authorities have issued an Interpol wanted notice for Ghosn. Interpol’s  “Red Notice” alerts forces all across the world that a said individual is wanted in a country, in this case, Japan. While the organization does not have the power to make any country comply with its red notice and neither is the notice an arrest warrant, it is capable of impeding Ghosn’s travel to other countries if the said country chooses to enforce it.

However, despite the red notice, the 65-year-old car executive is unlikely to face extradition from Lebanon, since the country does not have an extradition treaty with Japan, no matter how brazenly angered the Japanese government is.

What is Interpol?

The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) is an international organization, headquartered in the French city of Lyon, whose main objective is to facilitate worldwide police cooperation and crime control. It was established in 1923, initially named the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC) and was later changed to INTERPOL in 1956.

They provide various types of support to police branches all over the globe, including investigative and training support. Its wide sphere of expertise virtually covers every type of crime including crimes against humanity, child pornography, drug trafficking and production, political corruption, copyright infringement, and white-collar crime.

Due to its moral obligation to remain as politically neutral as possible, its charter bars the organization from involving itself in any political, military, religious, or racial natured disputes.

Why was it created?

INTERPOL was first thought of in 1914 when representatives from the police departments of 24 countries met in Monaco at the first International Criminal Police Congress. 12 wishes for the future of law enforcement cooperation around the world.

These 12 wishes were, “Improved direct, official contacts between police forces from different countries, the use of postal, telephone and telegram services free of charge for police forces to facilitate arrests, the use of a single uniform language (then French, with the hope that Esperanto would become widespread) to facilitate international communications, that training in forensic science be provided to law and law enforcement students, the increase in the number of law enforcement and police academies within countries, the establishment of an identification system to aid in identifying international criminals, the establishment of an international committee of identification experts to implement the identification system, the establishment of a centralized records repository, the study and establishment of a model extradition treaty to assist in ensuring criminals receive justice, the direct and immediate transmission of extradition requests, that provisional arrests are possible upon notification from the requesting country to the country hosting a fugitive, that countries work together to ensure that when a criminal faces charges in two separate countries, fugitives are extradited expeditiously after a decision is handed down in the first country.” 

To fulfil these demands, INTERPOL (initially International Criminal Police Commission) was established after World War 1 by Johannes Schober, President of the Vienna Police in 1923 and was based in Vienna. During World War 2, the organization did briefly fall under the control of the Nazi Empire but was reestablished soon after the war. In 1949, the newly formed United Nations officially recognized it as a nongovernmental entity.

Functions and jurisdiction

The organization’s police expertise and capabilities are primarily used in three types of crimes, namely – counter-terrorism, organized crime and cybercrime. They have succeeded in creating a global communication platform known as I-24/7 (Information 24×7) through which any member country can safely obtain and communicate data related to crime, criminals etc.

Member countries, including the said country’s security forces, have direct and immediate access to wide ranges of databases, stolen motor vehicles, including stolen and lost travel documents, stolen works of art, nominal data, DNA Profile, counterfeit payment cards, fingerprints and various other data. Interpol is also highly committed in the knocking down of crimes, criminal networks and illegal markets.

It does this by using its authority to issue 1 of 7 types of notices against people of interest. An example of this is the Indian government taking the help of INTERPOL to issue an arrest warrant for Dawood Ibrahim, wanted in Mumbai serial blasts, 1993. Interpol’s jurisdiction extends to all of its 181 member countries.

The few countries which are not members of Interpol for various reasons are: Bhutan, Kiribati, North Korea, Micronesia, Palau, Samoa, San Marino, Solomon Islands, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Vatican. 

Statutes / Agreements concerning Interpol

Interpol has several fundamental documents in place which hold together the organization’s legal framework. The main legal document is called the Constitution and it lays down the fundamental rules and principles by which the organization operates. It defines the organizational structure and roles played by each Interpol body.

Another such document is the General Regulations, which supplements the Constitution and provide additional provisions concerning the General Assembly sessions, the Executive Committee, the Secretary-General, advisers and matters relating to finance and personnel while the document entitled The Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly and Executive Committee, as the name suggests, lays out in detail the various procedures to be followed when the General Assembly is in session.

Financial Regulation document deals with how the budget is drafted and inducted into the system. There also exist rules on how data is processed and another document which ensures that the processing of personal data by the General Secretariat conforms to the applicable Interpole rules.


The story of Ghosn is just one of a few instances where the International Criminal Police Organization has been used to seek justice by various countries. The organization, with its i-24/7 database and strong cooperation between members, has had an overall positive impact in reducing crime all over the world in the past half-decade.

It has proved itself to be a platform formed on the basis of integrity and one that would not be influenced by political views and personal agendas. The organization’s strict and rigorously followed charters make sure that itn runs at peak efficiency at all times while keeping a diligent lookout for known troublemakers. It is expected that in the coming years, as crimes become more and more advanced, the role of Interpol will get more crucial in tackling instances of global terrorism, cybercrime and much more.

Author: Gaurav Jayakumar from O.P Jindal Global University, Sonipat.

Editor: Tressa Maria Joseph from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.

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