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History

Commission for the Control of INTERPOL's Files

Origins

The Supervisory Board for the Control of INTERPOL's Archives (hereinafter referred to as the Commission) came into being when INTERPOL renegotiated its  Headquarters Agreement with the French Government: it was then that a solution was found to the problems concerning INTERPOL's archives.

The issue

France claimed that the Law of 6 January 1978 concerning information technology, files and freedoms was applicable to the nominal data stored in INTERPOL's premises at Saint-Cloud, France. As a result, France argued that people should have access to data concerning them; a right which could be exercised through the  Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (French Commission on EDP and Freedom), which was set up in application of the above-mentioned law and given powers to control computerized files in France.

INTERPOL argued that this law should not be applicable to the police information processed by the General Secretariat for the following two reasons:

  • Information sent in by member countries does not belong to INTERPOL, which merely acts as a depository;
  • Applying the Law of 1978 to INTERPOL's files in France could hamper international police cooperation, since certain countries would prefer not to communicate police information which could be disclosed to French bodies.

The solution

Much was clearly at stake for both parties. France was unwilling to strengthen INTERPOL's status on its territory without some kind of guarantee concerning the processing of personal data protected by the Law of 1978, and the Organization was keen to ensure the smooth functioning of international police cooperation through its channels.

These conflicting aims were reconciled as a result of both parties' commitment to data protection, both in order to protect international police cooperation (France is a member of INTERPOL) and to protect individual rights ( Article 2 of INTERPOL's Constitution states that its action is carried out in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

The consensus was made official on 3 November 1982 with the signing of a new  Headquarters Agreement between France and INTERPOL, which came into force on 14 February 1984 and to which an Exchange of Letters is appended. These texts form the basis of the system for the control of INTERPOL's files.

By signing the text, France agreed not to apply the Law of 1978 to INTERPOL's files. The Agreement guarantees the inviolability of INTERPOL's archives and official correspondence (Articles 7 and 9 of the Headquarters Agreement), and also provides for internal control of INTERPOL's archives by an independent body rather than by a national supervisory board (Article 8).

Creation

In accordance with the Exchange of Letters between INTERPOL and the French authorities, which invites INTERPOL to set up a Supervisory Board and define its function, the Organization adopted the Rules on International Police Cooperation and on the Control of INTERPOL's Archives in 1982.

The purpose of these Rules, as stated in Article 1(2), is '… to protect police information processed and communicated within the ICPO INTERPOL international police cooperation system against any misuse, especially in order to avoid any threat to individual rights.' This text sets up the Board. It has been replaced by the  Rules on the Processing of Data and by the Rules on the Control of Information and Access to INTERPOL’s Files.

Status

In October 2008, the Commission  strengthened its legal status and position within the Organization.