Updated: Jan 8
By Isabel Alcántara, Esq.
Status or power won’t prevent judicial authorities from successfully emitting a Red Notice request against government officials. To prove it, we will briefly highlight several former presidents (and one current president) that have been the subject of a Red Notice. (Note, this is not an exhaustive compilation.)
Former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor
In 2003, the National Central Bureau of Sierra Leone issued a Red Notice against former Liberian President, Charles Taylor. Later, in 2012, Taylor became the first former head of state since Nuremberg to be convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by an international or hybrid tribunal. As president, he was implicated in having supported a brutal rebel group known for killing, raping, and cutting off the limbs of thousands of civilians, as well as forcibly recruiting thousands of child soldiers.
Former President of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
In 2011, the National Central Bureau of Tunis issued a Red Notice against former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, his wife, and other family members, alleging that Ben Ali was guilty of theft and the transfer of funds into foreign accounts during Ben Ali’s 23 years in power. He fled Tunisia for Saudi Arabia, where he died on 19 September 2019.
Former President of Ukraine, Yanukovych
The National Central Bureau of Kiev requested that a Red Notice be issued against President Yanukovych, of the Ukraine, in 2014. The Red Notice called for Yanukovych to be held on charges that include abuse of power and murder. Yanukovych’s lawyers petitioned Interpol’s Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files for the removal of the Red Notice. Once a petition is submitted, Interpol temporarily removes data concerning a Red Notice from its systems, until a decision is made. On 25 April 2017, Interpol deleted the Red Notice from its databases after finding that the Red Notice against Yanukovych was politically motivated.
Former President of Peru, Alejandro Toledo
In 2017, the National Central Bureau of Lima requested that Interpol issue a Red Notice against Alejandro Toledo. The Red Notice was founded on allegations of his involvement in an international scandal involving Odebrecht, a multinational company. Specifically, Toledo was accused of receiving $20 Million in bribes from Odebrecht. Later, Toledo was arrested in the United States in 2019 and his extradition was approved by a US judge in September of 2021.
President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro
In 2018, the National Central Bureau of Caracas issued a Red Notice against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, alleging that Maduro possessed assets that were the product of illegal activity. The Veneuzuelan justice department in exile alleged that Maduro accepted bribes from cartels and profited off Venezuela’s drug trafficking.
Former President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa
According to this article, Interpol has rejected three Red Notices against Rafael Correa, former president of Ecuador. The Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files found that each request did not comply with Interpol’s rules. Interpol has questioned the integrity of the information sent by the Ecuadorian Justice department, pointing to what has been previously denounced by Correa himself as political persecution that goes against Human Rights and contradicts Interpol’s constitutive document.
Former U.S. President, Donald Trump
In 2021, the National Central Bureau of Tehran issued a Red Notice against Former U.S. president Donal Trump and 47 other U.S. officials, citing the targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani, a powerful Iranian general. Interpol rejected the request, basing the rejection on the fact that Interpol does not accept requests for a Red Notice motivated by political or military concerns.
While most Red Notice requests that have been made against presidents are rejected or removed because the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files considers them to be politically motivated, we can see that Red Notices against presidents are not always found invalid. (See references above to Charles Taylor and Alejandro Toledo.) One’s position in society as a high ranking government official does not automatically guarantee that Interpol will reject a red notice request. Even a high ranking official should prepare to point to such facts and circumstances that violate Interpol’s rules and human rights preserved by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, amongst other frameworks.