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The Constitution

INTERPOL’s Constitution is the main legal document guiding the Organization through the decades of its existence.

The Constitution of the Organization was adopted at the 25th session of the General Assembly (June 1956, Vienna) and came into force on 13 June 1956. Prior to this, a series of less uniform statutes had served as the legal basis of the Organization since its foundation in 1923.

The Constitution outlines INTERPOL’s aims and objectives – in other words, it establishes the mandate of the Organization and guides the way for effective international police cooperation.

The key elements

The Constitution is divided into 11 parts that outline the key points of the Organization’s aims, activities and structure.  The part of “General Provisions” represents the core foundations of the Organization, and gives it a particularly broad mandate.

The aims of the Organization are outlined in Article 2. They are, first, to ensure the widest possible cooperation between all criminal police authorities and, second, to establish and develop institutions in order to suppress ordinary law crimes. The mandate given to the Organization is thus rather general and the scope makes it possible to enlarge the Organization's ways of operating according to the needs of different times and situations.

Article 2 further specifies that the international police cooperation is to be conducted within the "spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights", thus laying out the foundation for the Organization's obligation to respect fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals in the course of its actions.

This is complemented by Article 3 of the Constitution, which is sometimes referred to as "the neutrality clause". This Article states that in order to ensure the widest possible cooperation between the police authorities of its member States, it is strictly forbidden for organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.

In particular, Article 3 is most commonly used to ensure the legitimate everyday application of the Constitution.

 Read more about Article 3

Subsequent parts of the Constitution outline the structure of the Organization and give a definition of each body of INTERPOL and their respective roles:

  • General Assembly;
  • Executive Committee;
  • General Secretariat;
  • National Central Bureaus;
  • Advisers;
  • Commission for the Control of Files.

They also provide for the procedure to become a Member country of the Organization, for the budget and for relations with other organizations.

The latter parts of the Constitution regulate the application, modification and interpretation of the Constitution. A key provision is that the "application of the Constitution shall be determined by the General Assembly through the General Regulations and Appendices".

In this way, a mandate is laid out for the Organization to provide itself other rules and regulations in order to define the everyday framework for its operations. The same is also laid down by Article 8(d) of the Constitution.

Facilitating international police cooperation

In all, every action taken by the Organization must be in conformity with the Constitution which establishes the legal foundation for international police cooperation as undertaken by INTERPOL. The Constitution gives a legal personality to the Organization by giving it the right to enter into cooperation with other organizations or to decide about its own budget, and thus makes it possible to facilitate cooperation without outside interference.