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Five things to know about Interpol

LYON, France: Interpol, the world’s largest international police organisation, works with its 194 member countries to coordinate policing across the planet, including on organised crime and counter-terrorism operations.

After it named South Korea’s Kim Jong-yang as its new president on Wednesday, beating a Russian official whose candidacy had unnerved Western nations, here is some background on the agency.

– Politically neutral –

Founded in 1923, Interpol facilitates cooperation between police authorities across its member countries but does not have a police force of its own.

Based in the southeastern French city of Lyon since 1989, it is officially politically neutral and acts only within the national laws of its members.

It is prohibited from “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character,” its website says.

There have nonetheless been accusations that some member states, including Russia, have tried to use Interpol channels to have political opponents arrested in other countries.

Russia on Wednesday said “unprecedented pressure” swayed Interpol to choose the US-backed Kim over Russian candidate Alexander Prokopchuk.

– A symbolic presidency – 

The Interpol president, elected every four years, serves a largely symbolic role and presides over the annual meeting of the General Assembly, its top governing body.

Composed of delegates from each member state, the General Assembly takes all major decisions, including those involving finances.

It is the secretary general that directs Interpol’s day-to-day work. Germany’s Juergen Stock was elected to the post in 2014 for a five-year term.

– Red Notices and other alerts –

One of the main roles of Interpol, which does not issue its own arrest warrants or carry out its own investigations, is issuing notices requesting cooperation from its members.

Of the eight grades of alert the most important is the Red Notice, which informs members about a criminal wanted in one country and who may be in another.

It is based on a national arrest warrant and any arrest is carried out by police in the country concerned, at their discretion and without Interpol influence.

A Blue Notice seeks to collect information about a person in relation to a crime, while the Black Notice seeks to identify dead bodies.

The Special Notice was created in 2005 for individuals subject to UN Security Council sanctions, such as asset freezes or travel bans.

Only about 30 percent of Interpol’s notices are made public.

– Vast crime databases – 

Interpol also provides its member countries with access to various databases that contain millions of criminal and other records.

One lists more than 205,000 records of known international criminals, missing persons and dead bodies, according to figures on the agency’s site from December 2017.

There is a database containing around 172,000 DNA profiles from 83 countries, and another with more than 182,000 sets of fingerprints.

A database created in 2015 lists more than 46,000 suspected foreign terrorist fighters.

Another on child sexual exploitation has been used to identify 12,000 victims and 5,600 offenders, the site says.

There are also databases sharing information on stolen travel documents, vehicles, artworks and firearms.

– International staff –

Interpol mainly financed by its member nations, which contribute on a scale proportional to their means, but it also receives contributions from external donors.

In 2017 the United States was the main contributor to Interpol’s 124.3 million-euro ($141 million) budget with 10.6 million euros, followed by Japan, Germany and France.

With seven regional bureaus, it employs about 800 staff members from 100 different countries, about a third deployed by their national authorities.

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