Access to INTERPOL's files
Commission for the Control of INTERPOL's Files
Requests for access to INTERPOL's files are processed in conformity with the Commission's Operating Rules
Open access free of charge
Access to INTERPOL's files is open to the public and free of charge: anyone may request access to the Organization's files without fear that his/her request being used for the purposes of international police and judicial cooperation (see the Commission's Annual Report for 2002, 4.3.1). The Commission's files are confidential and requests are not recorded in INTERPOL's files. The Commission may nevertheless be obliged to communicate certain items of information to the INTERPOL General Secretariat or the National Central Bureaus so that the request can be processed.
The Commission is unable to guarantee that information communicated by requesting parties will remain confidential unless the information is sent to it directly by post (see Contacting the Commission).
Making a request
In accordance with Article 8 of the Operating Rules of the Commission, requests for access to INTERPOL's files received by the Organization are transmitted to the Commission, even if they are not specifically addressed to the Commission.
However, to accelerate and facilitate the processing of requests, the form below must be used and requests must be sent to the Commission by post, following the instructions on the form to ensure that the request is admissible.
- The Commission considers that a case is submitted only when a request for access to INTERPOL's files has been made. It does not consider this to be the case when the words ''Copy to the General Secretariat, Lyon'' are marked on a request addressed to an NCB.
- The Commission only interviews requesting parties or their duly authorized representatives in exceptional cases if, after examining the files concerned it considers that such interviews are warranted.
Admissibility of requests
Before processing a request, the Commission assesses its admissibility with regard to the requesting party's right of access to the necessary files, and the documents supplied.
- The request includes an original letter, signed by the requesting party and explaining the purpose of the request;
- It is written in one of the Organization's official languages;
- The request comes from the person whom it concerns, or from that person's duly authorized representative or his/her legal representative;
- If the request comes from the duly authorized representative of the person who is the subject of the request, the request shall be accompanied by an original power of attorney signed by the said person authorizing his/her representative to access any information about that person recorded in INTERPOL's files;
- If the request comes from the legal representative of the person who is the subject of the request, it shall be accompanied by a corresponding written declaration;
- The request shall be accompanied by a copy of an identity document belonging to the person who is the subject of the request, in order to prove his/her identity;"
The reasons do not necessarily have to be given for requests to simply access the Organization's files. On the other hand, requests to delete or amend information that may be in the files must be supported: the requesting party must give all the necessary details (see 'Additional information' in the 'Form for requesting access to INTERPOL's files').
The Commission declared inadmissible a request from the chief executive of a company asking for information about a member of his Board of Directors, and another requesting intervention in relations between NCBs.
- The Commission shall decide on the admissibility of a request as soon as possible, generally during the session immediately following receipt of the said request unless the Commission requires further information to determine its admissibility.
- If the additional information requested is not provided after a period determined by the Commission, the request shall be closed without further action.
- Such a closure will not bar examination of the request if the information is submitted at a later date.
- Without prejudice to the case referred to in (2) above, the Commission shall inform the requesting party of the admissibility of his/her request within one month of its decision. If the Commission considers the request to be inadmissible, it shall give the reasons for its decision.
Direct or indirect access to files
The principle is to allow requesting parties indirect access to the Organization files (Article 6 of the Exchange of Letters between INTERPOL and the French authorities).
This access is indirect because of the principle of national sovereignty which governs INTERPOL’s international police cooperation. According to this principle, Member countries remain the owners of information they communicate to INTERPOL and must give permission for its disclosure to requesting parties.
There are however exceptions to this principle. The access to information stored by the Organization becomes direct if:
- The requesting party provides proof that he/she knows the information that is stored in INTERPOL's files;
- The entity which supplied the information stored by the Organization (usually the NCB) agrees to the information being communicated to the requesting party; Disclosure is therefore left up to the owner of the information. It should be pointed out that this rule also applies to informing requesting parties that they are not listed in INTERPOL's files;
- The information has become public. If information concerning the person who is the subject of the request appears on the INTERPOL public website because the information is considered to be public, the Commission sends the requesting party a copy of this information.
Other exceptions to the principle of indirect access are given in the Commission's Annual Report for 2002 (Article 4.4.5).
Replies to requesting parties
As stated above, in application of Article 18.3 of the Operating Rules, the Commission is required to reply to the requesting party, except in cases where requests are clearly unreasonable (see also Article 9(d) of the Rules on the Control of Information and Access to INTERPOL’s Files).
The Commission determines whether a request is unreasonable notably by taking account of the number or repetitive nature of the requests.
Requesting parties only have a right of indirect access. In the absence of the appropriate authorization from the country concerned by the request, the Commission tells requesting parties that it is not empowered to divulge whether there is information about them in the General Secretariat's archives, or to allow them access to any information which might exist. It simply informs the requesting party that the checks have been carried out.
If the country concerned by the request for access to the files has authorized disclosure, the Commission sends the requesting party the information.
However, the Commission may waive this principle and inform a requesting party that there is information about him or her in the Organization's files, or that there is no such information, with the prior agreement of the NCB concerned. It may also tell a requesting party that information about him or her exists if that party already has knowledge of it from an authorized source.
The Commission reserves the right to direct the requesting party to the national authorities able to provide him/her with a reply to the request.
The Commission may also be called upon to explain to a requesting party the precise roles of the General Secretariat and the Commission. For example, the Commission frequently has to explain that the General Secretariat is required to check the validity of charges and not their accuracy. It may also have to explain to the requesting party that it is not its role to provide assistance with visa applications or issue certificates of good conduct.
Finally, the Commission can re-examine the request, if the following conditions are met (Article 19 of the operating rules):
- An application for re-examination of a request by the Commission may be made by the requesting party only when it is based on the discovery of a fact which would probably have led to a different conclusion if that fact had been known at the time the request was processed.
The Commission shall assess the advisability of forwarding the application for
re-examination to the General Secretariat. The Commission shall set a deadline by which the General Secretariat must notify it of its comments regarding this application.
- In its opinion to the Commission, the General Secretariat shall give the reasons for its position.
- On receipt of the General Secretariat's opinion stating its position, or on expiry of the deadline it has set, the Commission shall decide whether or not to re-examine the request.
- The Commission shall inform the General Secretariat of its decision. If the Commission disagrees with the General Secretariat, it shall explain its decision.
- The Commission shall also inform the requesting party of its decision.