Neutrality (Article 3 of the Constitution)


INTERPOL, is an international police organisation with the primary aim of advancing international police cooperation. On account of its very diverse membership, it was very early on (1946) determined that its focus would be the prevention of and combatting of ordinary law crimes, as opposed to political, military, religious and racial crimes. The resolve to limit the Organisation’s engagement to ordinary law crimes is grounded in Article 2 and Article 3 of the Constitution.

According to Article 3 of INTERPOL’s Constitution, “It is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.” The primary objectives of Article 3 are to ensure a) the Organisation’s independence and neutrality- as reaffirmed by Resolution AG-2006-RES-04, b) to reflect international extradition law and c) to protect individuals from persecution.

In order to implement Article 3 consistently and in recognition of the existence of what are termed purely political, military, religious and racial offences, but also the occurrence of ordinary law crimes within a political, military, religious and racial context, the Organisation adopted the predominance test (Resolution AGN/20/RES/11). The application of this test is done on a case by case basis to determine whether the political, military, religious or racial elements dominate in the given case.

The interpretation of Article 3 follows the developments of international law in general and extradition law in particular. In 1984 INTERPOL’s General Assembly adopted a Resolution (Resolution AGN/53/RES/7) which made it possible for the Organisation to engage, under certain circumstances, in cases related to terrorism. This position, adopted despite the fact that terrorism remains inherently political, is aligned with developments in international extradition practice: Terrorism is no longer considered a political offence for purposes of extradition, thereby falling outside the political offence exception in international extradition law. The scope of INTERPOL’s engagement in terrorist offences was expanded to include the charge of membership in terrorist organisations in 2004 (Resolution Ag-2004-RES-18).

A second noteworthy change of policy with regard to the interpretation of Article 3 took place in 1994, where INTERPOL’s General Assembly adopted a Resolution (Resolution AGN/63/RES/9) that enabled the Organisation to engage in cases concerning violations of international humanitarian law in specific circumstances. This has allowed the Organisation to actively cooperate with the International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and later on with additional tribunals such as the International Criminal Court. It also enables member countries to cooperate with one another in these cases using INTERPOL channels.

Framework of interpretation of Article 3

The prohibition in Article 3 applies to the Organisation as a whole. This means all INTERPOL organs as well as its member countries must comply with Article 3 with regard to any INTERPOL activity or any use of INTERPOL’s tools and services.

As provided in INTERPOL’s Rules on the Processing of Data (Art. 34) To determine whether a request falls within the ambit of Article 3, all relevant information related to the case is assessed, including the following elements:

  • The nature of the offence, namely the charges and the underlying facts;
  • The status of the person concerned;
  • The identity of the source of data;
  • The position expressed by another country or another international entity (such as an international tribunal);
  • Obligations under international law;
  • Implications for the neutrality of the Organization; and
  • The general context of the case;

Based on the long-standing experience in interpreting and implementing Article 3, a Repository of Practice on Article 3 was developed. The Repository provides guidance on the evolution and development of INTERPOL’s practice in application of Article 3 in a variety of circumstances, including offences committed by politicians and former politicians; offences committed in an unconstitutional seizure of power; offences with military, religious or racial aspects and offences against the security of the state.

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