Commission for the Control of INTERPOL's Files

The Commission operates within the framework laid down by the basic rules governing the Organization, which states that INTERPOL's aim is ''to ensure and promote the widest possible mutual assistance between all criminal police authorities within the limits of the laws existing in the different countries and in the spirit of the 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights.' (Article 2(a) of the Constitution).

Like the Organization, the Commission helps protect the rights of individuals during the processing of personal information.

  • The Commission is the body officially responsible for monitoring the application of the Organization's data protection rules to personal data processed by INTERPOL.
  • It also plays an advisory role vis-à-vis the Organization with regard to any operations or projects concerning the processing of personal information.
  • Finally, the Commission is responsible for processing requests for access to INTERPOL's files.

The Commission’s roles are explained in greater detail in the Commission’s operating rules, which entered into force 1 November 2008.

A supervisory role

It is the Commission's responsibility to check that the information stored by the General Secretariat is obtained, processed and kept in accordance with INTERPOL's rules and regulations, and the purposes stated therein. The Commission also ensures that State sovereignty is respected, as this is one of the basic principles behind INTERPOL's Rules on the Processing of Data.

The Commission's supervisory role is outlined in Article 59 of INTERPOL's Rules on the Processing of Data, and in Article 5 of the Exchange of Letters which states that the Commission shall: "verify that personal information contained in the archives is:

  • Obtained and processed in accordance with the provisions of the Organization's Constitution and the interpretation thereof given by the appropriate organs of the Organization;
  • Recorded for specific purposes and not used in any way that is incompatible with those purposes;
  • Accurate;
  • Kept for a limited period in accordance with the conditions laid down by the Organization."

These provisions are supplemented by Article 1 of the Rules on the Control of Information and Access to INTERPOL’s Files which states that "The Commission shall ensure that the rules and operations relating to the processing of personal information by the Organization, and particularly its projects to create new files or new methods of circulating personal information, conform to all the relevant rules adopted by the Organization, and that they do not infringe the basic rights of the people concerned, as referred to in Article 2 of the Organization's Constitution, which refers in turn to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or the general principles of data protection."

With regard to the processing of police information, the Commission verifies that processing is carried out in conformity with the Rules on the Processing of Data and the Rules on the Control of Information and Access to INTERPOL’s Files (Article 25).

By studying requests from individuals who wish to know whether the Organization has any information on them, the Commission can make targeted checks and, where necessary, recommend that certain corrections be made to the Organization's files.

The Commission generally makes spot checks at each session. Spot checks, which are either random or target specific information or a type of processing, constitute an extremely effective way of checking whether personal information received by the General Secretariat and stored in its files is processed in accordance with INTERPOL's rules and the basic data-protection principles adopted by the Organization. The Commission carries out two types of check:

  • On the information processing procedures;
  • On the information itself, irrespective of its source.

The Commission makes its recommendations to the Organization in a report covering basic issues and processing errors.

The purpose of spot checks is to gain a better understanding of the Organization's system for processing police information, the problems it encounters, and the risks and requirements of international police and judicial cooperation, so as to be able to effectively carry out its role as adviser to the Organization on data-processing matters.

An advisory role

The Commission also has an advisory role. With regard to requests, spot checks or the processing of police information by INTERPOL, the Commission studies projects, specific questions on the processing of information by or through INTERPOL, the relevant rules and makes recommendations, either on its own initiative or at the request of the Organization. The Commission is not empowered to process police information itself.

One example of this is the Commission's general approval of the new Rules on the Processing of Data, which came into force on 1 July 2012.

The Commission attaches the highest importance to a relationship based on consultation and transparency between itself and the General Secretariat, to enable each party to understand the requirements and the constraints of the other, thus giving them a clearer picture of these and allowing the Commission to advise the Organization more effectively, playing a role that is both preventive and proactive with regard to the processing of information by INTERPOL (Annual Report for 2002, Item 2).

The processing of requests

The Commission processes requests to access INTERPOL's files using the procedure found in its operating rules.

Matters outside its remit

The Commission is also regularly called upon to confirm – mainly when processing requests to access INTERPOL's files – that neither it nor INTERPOL should in any way:

  • Take over from the judicial authorities by checking or amending charges. INTERPOL and the Commission should nonetheless ask the relevant questions in order to help them decide whether or not police information is accurate and, more generally, whether or not it should actually be recorded, is up to date or should be retained in the files;
  • Assess the legal situation in a member country with a view to giving an opinion on the validity of an arrest warrant or a legal decision;
  • Determine whether, under the terms of a legal cooperation agreement between the two countries, a decision to discontinue proceedings should be taken;
  • Provide assistance with visa applications, or issue certificates of good conduct.