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Human rights

“[I]t is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression,that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”

Preamble, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In this era where the importance of human rights is increasingly emphasized, INTERPOL continually strives to promote respect for and the observance of such principles, in the context of the Organization’s mandate.

Background

On 10 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”. By doing so, the United Nations General Assembly recognized, for the first time, the “inherent dignity” and the “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”.

Since then, the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been widely considered to have attained the status of customary international law. The obligation in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – to ensure a minimum level of respect for an individual’s most essential rights stemming from his existence as a human being – is not only limited to states; it extends to actors on the international scene as well.

As stated in the Vienna Declaration, which was adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights on 25 June 1993; “all human rights are universal, indivisible and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis.”

INTERPOL's response

To this end, INTERPOL has strived not only to refrain from any possible infringements of human rights, but also to actively promote the protection of human rights, where it is deemed necessary, in the context of the Organization’s mandate.

The importance of respect for human rights has been recognized by INTERPOL since the early days of the Organization. In INTERPOL’s General Assembly Resolution no. 3 of 1949, it was emphasized that “all acts of violence or inhuman treatment, that is to say those contrary to human dignity committed by the police in the exercise of their judicial and criminal police duties, must be denounced to justice”.

This respect for human rights is now enshrined in Article 2 of INTERPOL’s Constitution, which mandates the Organization to ensure and promote international police cooperation “in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

It is further emphasized in Article 2(a) of INTERPOL’s Rules on the Processing of Information, which provides that information is to be processed by the Organization or through its channels “with due respect for the basic rights of individuals in conformity with Article 2 of the Organization’s Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

Practical examples

In practical terms, INTERPOL’s commitment to respect human rights is demonstrated through several initiatives.

Cooperation with international courts and tribunals

Firstly, the Organization cooperates closely with international courts and tribunals whose mandates envisage the prosecution and conviction of those who commit what are widely considered to be the most severe atrocities committed by man.

So far, cooperation has been established by agreements between INTERPOL and the following bodies:

  • International Criminal Court;
  • International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia;
  • International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda;
  • Special Court for Sierra Leone;
  • Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

For example, in the case of the Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, the basis for its co-operation with INTERPOL is to found in Article 39 of the Tribunal's Rules of Procedure and Evidence (adopted in 1994), which states that "in the conduct of an investigation, the Prosecutor may seek ... the assistance ... of any relevant international body, including the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL)".

As for the International Criminal Court, it is expressly provided in Article 87 (1)(b) of the Court Statute itself that "when appropriate, without prejudice to the provisions of subparagraph (a), requests may also be transmitted through the International Criminal Police Organization[…]".

INTERPOL provides assistance to these courts and tribunals through the publication of notices and support in the search for fugitives. The INTERPOL General Assembly has also authorized increased support from INTERPOL in the investigation and prosecution of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Resolution AG-2004-RES-17.

Processing of personal information

Secondly, the Organization ensures that human rights are respected during the processing of personal information by the Organization or through its channels. This role is fulfilled not only by the General Secretariat itself but also by the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files.

The Commission is an independent body whose tasks include ensuring that the rules and operations relating to the processing of personal information by INTERPOL, and particularly INTERPOL’s projects to create new files or new methods of circulating personal information, do not infringe the basic rights of the people concerned, as referred to in Article 2 of the Organization’s Constitution.

The independent Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files is also responsible for processing requests for access to INTERPOL’s files, including requests for correction or deletions.

General Assembly Resolution

Another way in which INTERPOL’s observance of human rights has been translated into practice is through INTERPOL’s General Assembly Resolution AGN/63/RES/16 (Rome, 1994).

This resolution emphasized the importance of work done by INTERPOL to protect basic human rights, and recommended that Member states adopt measures designed to ensure that training on human rights is provided in police colleges.

The importance of providing training on human rights to police personnel, in order to strengthen international cooperation, was recognized. A circular letter was subsequently sent to member states, requesting them to keep the General Secretariat informed of all developments concerning the implementation of this resolution.

It should be further noted that INTERPOL works in close cooperation with the United Nations Human Rights Council (formerly the United Nations Commission on Human Rights), participating regularly in their sessions and seminars.