International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL)
INTERPOL is the world's largest international police organization, with 186 member countries. Created in 1923, it facilitates cross-border police co-operation, and supports and assists all organizations, authorities and services whose mission is to prevent or combat international crime. Its founding document is its Constitution.
||Keywords: Headquarters Agreement, taux effectif, Secretariat, Commission for the Control of INTERPOL'S Files (CCF), data protection
INTERPOL aims to facilitate international police co-operation even where diplomatic relations do not exist between particular countries. Action is taken within the limits of existing laws in different countries and in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. INTERPOL's constitution, adopted in 1956, prohibits any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.
As defined in Article 5 of its Constitution, INTERPOL comprises the following:
Recent Development: INTERPOL concludes a new Headquarters Agreement with France
- General Assembly, which is the body of supreme authority in the Organization,
- Executive Committee, composed of 13 members elected by the General Assembly and headed by the President of the Organization,
- General Secretariat, headed by a Secretary General elected by the General Assembly for a renewable five years term,
- National Central Bureaus, those are national bodies appointed by each member country and serve as liaison body between the member country and the other member countries, the General Secretariat and national law enforcement bodies,
- Advisers, appointed by the General Assembly.
- The Commission for the Control of Files
After five years of negotiations, INTERPOL and French authorities have concluded a new Headquarters Agreement which reinforces the Organization's legal status in France. On 3 November 1982, INTERPOL concluded a Headquarters Agreement governing its status on French territory. The Headquarters Agreement gave Interpol a certain number of privileges and immunities guaranteeing the independent functioning of its activities. The new Headquarters Agreement comes into force on 1 September 2009.
Over the years, a number of gaps and weaknesses have become apparent in INTERPOL's agreement with France. Thus, generally speaking, the privileges and immunities granted to Interpol were of a lesser order than those granted to organizations perceived by the French authorities as large organizations (i.e. UNESCO, OECD, the Council of Europe and CERN). Only the Secretary General benefited from diplomatic status. More specifically, INTERPOL had come up against significant difficulties with regard to reimbursement of VAT on building work. It would also appear that the position of certain individuals was not as highly regarded as might be expected by an international organization such as INTERPOL.
The question of abolishing the practice known as the taux effectif has been satisfactorily resolved. According to the current Headquarters Agreement, officials' salaries are taken into account by the French tax authorities to calculate the rate of taxation to be applied to income from other sources (e.g. income received by their spouses in France), thereby increasing tax paid on other income. INTERPOL asked for this to be abolished and this has been accepted by the French authorities: abolition of the taux effectif' remains subject to the continued levy of an internal tax by the Organization.
French authorities and INTERPOL had agreed that VAT would be reimbursed on financial operations involving immovable assets. Further to the discussions held in 2007, France has agreed to reimburse VAT on financial operations involving immovable assets carried out before the entry into force of the new Headquarters Agreement with effect, retroactively, from 1 January 2004.
The new Headquarters Agreement gives the Secretary General a higher diplomatic status equivalent to Head of Diplomatic Mission. Also, the revised Headquarters Agreement provides that directors serving at the Organization's General Secretariat in France shall enjoy, for the duration of their functions, the privileges and immunities accorded to diplomatic agents.
The revised Headquarters Agreement also provides for the possibility of an arbitration procedure to deal with disputes between the Organization and private parties on the one hand, and between the Organization and the Government of the French Republic on the other.
Recent Development: Commission for the Control of Files made a full organ of INTERPOL
The Commission for the Control of INTERPOL'S Files (CCF) came into being (as the Supervisory Board for the Internal Control of INTERPOL'S Archives) when INTERPOL renegotiated its Headquarters Agreement with the French Government in 1982. It had become necessary to introduce the notion of independent supervision of the Organization's files in order to avoid the application of French law on personal data protection. In this way, INTERPOL could continue to provide international police co-operation without interference from any particular national legislation.
This aim was achieved as a result of both parties' commitment to data protection in order to protect international police co-operation (France is a member of INTERPOL) and to protect individual rights (Article 2 of INTERPOL's Constitution states that its action is carried out in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Consensus on the matter was reached with the signing in 1982 of a new Headquarters Agreement between France and INTERPOL (which came into force on 14 February 1984) and to which an Exchange of Letters was appended concerning 'organization of the internal control of the archives' held by INTERPOL. These texts formed the basis of the system for the supervision of INTERPOL's files. The Agreement guaranteed the inviolability of INTERPOL's archives and official correspondence (Articles 7 and 9 of the Headquarters Agreement), and also provided for 'internal control' of INTERPOL's archives by an independent collegiate body rather than by a national supervisory board (Article 8). In the Exchange of Letters, the two parties defined the composition and scope of powers of the Commission which INTERPOL agreed to set up.
INTERPOL then incorporated the terms of the Agreement in its internal rules by adopting, in 1982, the Rules on International Police Co-operation and on the Internal Control of INTERPOL's Archives. The purpose of these Rules, as stated in Article 1(2) is
to protect police information processed and communicated within the ICPO-INTERPOL international police co-operation system against any misuse, especially in order to avoid any threat to individual rights.
The second part of these Rules established a Supervisory Board (whose English name was subsequently changed to the present Commission for the Control of INTERPOL's Files). The Rules on International Police Co-operation were replaced by the Rules on the Processing of Information for the Purposes of International Police Co-operation and the Rules Relating to the Control of Information and Access to INTERPOL's Files, which the General Assembly adopted in 2003 and 2004 respectively.
The Commission's essential independence, which is referred to in the 1982 version of the Headquarters Agreement between INTERPOL and France, is currently enshrined in the Rules relating to the Control of Information and Access to INTERPOL's Files and the Agreement between the Supervisory Board and the General Secretariat, which states that the Secretary General 'shall take all administrative decisions necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of the Supervisory Board's activities, with scrupulous respect for its independence and its mandate'. The Commission's accreditation was granted during the 25th International Conference of Data-Protection Commissioners. This accreditation recognizes both the existence of the Commission and its independence.
The revised Headquarters Agreement between France and INTERPOL which will come into force on 1 September 2009 abrogates the Headquarters Agreement of 3 November 1982 and the Exchange of Letters concluded with the French Government on the same date, as referred to above. It is important to stress that, during the negotiations, France and INTERPOL agreed that the revised Headquarters Agreement would no longer contain specific provisions relating to the supervision of INTERPOL's files, and that the organization of such supervision would thereafter come strictly within the Organization's internal legal structure. The reason for that was that INTERPOL wished to open up participation in the Commission's work to more member countries, bearing in mind that the Exchange of Letters provided for France to have a permanent seat.
Henceforth, in agreement with the Commission, the Executive Committee of the Organization proposed to incorporate the Commission into the internal legal structure of the Organization and to refer to it as a body of the Organization in the same way as the General Assembly, Executive Committee, General Secretariat, National Central Bureaus and Advisers, in conformity with Article 5 of INTERPOL's Constitution.
Article 36 of the Constitution now confirms and guarantees the independence of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL's Files, which is essential for it to be able to carry out its dual role of supervision and access. The same Article also sets out the CCF's duties:
New Article 37 refers to the necessary expertise required to be a member of the Commission and to guarantee its independence, and therefore lays down a general principle linked to the composition of the Commission. It also states that the functioning and composition of the Commission shall be the subject of rules laid down by the General Assembly. Those rules may, among other things, specify the status of the members of the Commission with a view to guaranteeing its necessary independence.
- The Commission for the Control of Files is an independent body which shall ensure that the processing of personal information by the Organization is in compliance with the regulations the Organization establishes in this matter.
- The Commission for the Control of Files shall provide the Organization with advice about any project, operation, set of rules or other matter involving the processing of personal information.
- The Commission for the Control of Files shall process requests concerning the information contained in the Organization's files.
As we can see, the adoption of a new Headquarters Agreement between INTERPOL and France and the change in INTERPOL's Constitution to make the Commission for the Control of Files a plain body of the Organization were closely related and led to an ever reinforced legal status for the Organization. The conclusion of the new Headquarters Agreement raises INTERPOL's legal status in France to the level of other international organizations based there which constitutes recognition of the role that INTERPOL now plays on the international scene. The amendment to the Constitution increases the visibility of the Commission and also conforms to international practice, since numerous commissions, committees, tribunals and international courts are principal or subsidiary bodies of international organizations. Such is the case for the International Court of Justice, which is a principal body of the United Nations, and the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia, which are subsidiary bodies of the Security Council, itself a principal body of the United Nations. It equally corresponds with the position of European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which is a supranational jurisdictional body created by the European Convention on Human Rights in the context of the Council of Europe, and formally designated as the Council of Europe's primary body for dealing with human rights issues.
Director, Administration and Budget, Interpol
Available at http://www.interpol.int/Public/ICPO/LegalMaterials /constitution/constitutionGenReg/constitution.asp.
Available at http://www.interpol.int/Public/ICPO/LegalMaterials/constitution/hqagreement/AccordSiegeRevise2008.pdf.
Taux effectif is the principle whereby the accumulated income of the official of the Organization and that of the spouse are taken as a basis for calculating a couple's taxes.
The International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners deals with major issues relating to data protection. Every year, since 2003, a Credentials Committee examines applications for accreditation as a data-protection authority. The main criteria which have to be met for an authority to be accredited are its autonomy and independence, which must be explicitly provided for in a national or international legal instrument. For example, see the 2009 report of the Credentials Committee available at http://www.privacyconference2009.org/privacyconf2009/dpas_space/documentos_adoptados/common/report_credentials_committee_en.pdf.
Article 37 reads
The members of the Commission for the Control of Files shall possess the expertise required for it to accomplish its functions. Its composition and its functioning shall be subject to specific rules to be laid down by the General Assembly.
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