The International Criminal Police Organization (French: Organisation internationale de police criminelle) ICPO or INTERPOL, is an intergovernmental organization facilitating international police cooperation. It was established as the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC) in 1923 and adopted its telegraphic address as its common name in 1956.

Interpol has an annual budget of around €78 million, most of which is provided through annual contributions by its membership of 190 countries (as of 2015). The organization's headquarters is in Lyon, France. It is the second largest political organization after the United Nations in terms of international representation. In 2013, the Interpol General Secretariat employed a staff of 756, representing 100 member countries. Its current Secretary-General is Jürgen Stock, the former deputy head of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office. He replaced Ronald Noble, a former United States Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement, who stepped down in November 2014 after serving 14 years. Interpol's current President is Mireille Ballestrazzi, former Deputy Central Director of the French Judicial Police. Her predecessor was Khoo Boon Hui, former Commissioner of the Singapore Police Force.

To keep Interpol as politically neutral as possible, its charter forbids it, at least in theory, from undertaking interventions or activities of a political, military, religious, or racial nature or involving itself in disputes over such matters. Its work focuses primarily on public safety and battling terrorism, crimes against humanity, environmental crime, genocide, war crimes, organized crime, piracy, illicit traffic in works of art, illicit drug production, drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, child pornography, white-collar crime, computer crime, intellectual property crime, and corruption.


In the first part of the 20th century, several efforts were taken to formalize international police cooperation, but they initially failed. Among these efforts were the First International Criminal Police Congress in Monaco in 1914, and the International Police Conference in New York in 1922. The Monaco Congress failed because it was organized by legal experts and political officials, not by police professionals, while the New York Conference failed to attract international attention.

In 1923, a new initiative was taken at the International Criminal Police Congress in Vienna, where the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC) was successfully founded as the direct forerunner of Interpol. Founding members included police officials from Austria, Germany, Belgium, Poland, China, Egypt, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia. The United Kingdom joined in 1928. The United States did not join Interpol until 1938, although a US police officer unofficially attended the 1923 congress.

Following Anschluss in 1938, the organization fell under the control of Nazi Germany, and the Commission's headquarters were eventually moved to Berlin in 1942. Most members withdrew their support during this period. From 1938 to 1945, the presidents of Interpol included Otto Steinhäusl, Reinhard Heydrich, Arthur Nebe, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner. All were generals in the SS, and Kaltenbrunner was the highest ranking SS officer executed after the Nuremberg Trials.

After the end of World War II in 1945, the organization was revived as the International Criminal Police Organization by officials from Belgium, France, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. Its new headquarters were established in Saint-Cloud, a suburb of Paris. They remained there until 1989, when they were moved to their present location in Lyon.

Until the 1980s, Interpol did not intervene in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in accordance with Article 3 of its Charter, which prohibited intervention in "political" matters.

In July 2010, former Interpol President Jackie Selebi was found guilty of corruption by the South African High Court in Johannesburg for accepting bribes worth €156,000 from a drug trafficker. After being charged in January 2008, Selebi resigned as president of Interpol and was put on extended leave as National Police Commissioner of South Africa. He was temporarily replaced by Arturo Herrera Verdugo, the National Commissioner of Investigations Police of Chile and former vice president for the American Zone, who remained acting president until October 2008 and the appointment of Khoo Boon Hui.

On 8 November 2012, the 81st General Assembly closed with the election of Deputy Central Director of the French Judicial Police Mireille Ballestrazzi as the new President of the organization. She thus became Interpol's first female president.


The role of Interpol is defined by the general provisions of its constitution.

Article 2 states that its role is:

  1. To ensure and promote the widest possible mutual assistance between all criminal police authorities within the limits of the laws existing in the different countries and in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  2. To establish and develop all institutions likely to contribute effectively to the prevention and suppression of ordinary law crimes.

Article 3 states:

It is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.


Interpol is not a supranational law enforcement agency and has no agents who are able to make arrests. Instead, it is an international organization that functions as a network of criminal law enforcement agencies from different countries. The organization thus functions as an administrative liaison among the law enforcement agencies of the member countries, providing communications and database assistance, assisted via the central headquarters in Lyon, France.

Interpol’s collaborative form of cooperation is useful when fighting international crime because language, cultural and bureaucratic differences can make it difficult for police officials from different nations to work together. For example, if ICE and FBI special agents track a terrorist to Italy, they may not know who to contact in the Polizia di Stato, if the Carabinieri have jurisdiction over some aspect of the case, or who in the Italian government must be notified of the ICE/FBI's involvement. ICE and FBI can contact the Interpol National Central Bureau in Italy, which would act as a liaison between the United States and Italian law enforcement agencies.

Interpol's databases at the Lyon headquarters can assist law enforcement in fighting international crime. While national agencies have their own extensive crime databases, the information rarely extends beyond one nation's borders. Interpol’s databases can track criminals and crime trends around the world, specifically by means of collections of fingerprints and face photos, lists of wanted persons, DNA samples, and travel documents. Interpol’s lost and stolen travel document database alone contains more than 12 million records. Officials at the headquarters also analyze these data and release information on crime trends to the member countries.

An encrypted Internet-based worldwide communications network allows Interpol agents and member countries to contact each other at any time. Known as I-24/7, the network offers constant access to Interpol's databases. While the National Central Bureaus are the primary access sites to the network, some member countries have expanded it to key areas such as airports and border access points. Member countries can also access each other's criminal databases via the I-24/7 system.

Interpol issued 13,637 notices in 2013, of which 8,857 were Red Notices, compared to 4,596 in 2008 and 2,037 in 2003. As of 2013, there are currently 52,880 valid notices in circulation.

In the event of an international disaster, terrorist attack, or assassination, Interpol can send an Incident Response Team (IRT). IRTs can offer a range of expertise and database access to assist with victim identification, suspect identification, and the dissemination of information to other nations' law enforcement agencies. In addition, at the request of local authorities, they can act as a central command and logistics operation to coordinate other law enforcement agencies involved in a case. Such teams were deployed 8 times in 2013. Interpol began issuing its own travel documents in 2009 with hopes that nations would remove visa requirements for individuals travelling for Interpol business, thereby improving response times.


In 2013, Interpol's operating income was €78 million, of which 68% was contributed by member countries, mostly in the form of statutory contributions (67%) and 26% came from externally funded projects, private foundations and commercial enterprises. Financial income and reimbursements made up the other 6% of the total. From 2004 to 2010, Interpol's external auditors was the French Court of Audit. In November 2010, the Court of Audit was replaced by the Office of the Auditor General of Norway for a three-year term with an option for a further three years.


Despite its political neutral stance, some have criticized the agency for its role in arrests that critics contend were politically motivated. In 2008, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees pointed to the problem of arrests of refugees on the request of Interpol in connection with politically motivated charges. In their declaration, adopted in Oslo (2010), Monaco (2012), Istanbul (2013), and Baku (2014), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly criticised some OSCE member States for their abuse of mechanisms of the international investigation and urged them to support the reform of Interpol in order to avoid politically motivated prosecution. The Istanbul Declaration of the OSCE cited specific cases of such prosecution, including those of the Russian activist Petr Silaev, financier William Browder, businessman Ilya Katsnelson, Belorussian politician Ales Michalevic, and Ukrainian politician Bohdan Danylyshyn. The resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of 31 January 2014 criticises the mechanisms of operation of the Commission for the Control of Interpol's files, in particular, non-adversarial procedures and unjust decisions. In 2014, PACE adopted a decision to thoroughly analyse the problem of the abuse of Interpol and to compile a special report on this matter. In May 2015, within the framework of the preparation of the report, the PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights organised a hearing, during which both representatives of NGOs and Interpol had the opportunity to speak.

Organisations, such as the Open Dialog Foundation, Fair Trials International, Centre for Peace Studies, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists indicate that non-democratic states use Interpol in order to harass opposition politicians, journalists, human rights activists and businessmen. According to them, countries that frequently abuse the Interpol system include: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Tunisia.

The Open Dialog Foundation’s report analysed 44 high-profile political cases, which went through the Interpol system. A number of persons who have been granted refugee status in the EU and the US, including: Russian businessman Andrey Borodin, a native of Chechnya Arbi Bugaev, the Kazakh opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov and his associate Artur Trofimov, a journalist from Sri Lanka Chandima Withana continue to remain on the public Interpol list. Some of the refugees remain on the list of Interpol even after courts have refused to extradite them to a non-democratic state (for example, Pavel Zabelin, a witness in the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Alexandr Pavlov, former security chief of the Kazakh oppositionist Ablyazov).

Interpol has recognised some requests to include persons on the wanted list as politically motivated, e.g., Indonesian activist Benny Wenda, Georgian politician Givi Targamadze, ex-president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, ex-president of Honduras Manuel Zelaya Rosales; these persons have been removed from the wanted list. However, in most cases, Interpol removes a ‘red notice’ against refugees only after an authoritarian state closes a criminal case or declares amnesty (for example, the cases of Russian activists, and political refugees: Petr Silaev, Denis Solopov, Aleksey Makarov, and Turkish sociologist Pinar Selek).

Refugees who are included in the list of Interpol can be arrested when crossing the border. The procedure for filing an appeal with Interpol is a long and complex one. For example, the Venezuelan journalist Patricia Poleo and a colleague of Kazakh oppositionist Ablyazov, Tatiana Paraskevich, who were granted refugee status, sought to overturn the politically motivated request for as long as one and a half years, and six months, respectively.

In 2013, Interpol was criticized over its multimillion-dollar deals with such private sector bodies as FIFA, Philip Morris, and the pharmaceutical industry. The criticism was mainly about the lack of transparency and potential conflicts of interest.

2014 Russian intervention in Ukraine

On 25 July 2014, despite Interpol's Constitution prohibiting them from undertaking any intervention or activities of a political or military nature, the Ukrainian nationalist paramilitary leader Dmytro Yarosh was placed on Interpol's international wanted list at the request of Russian authorities, which made him the only person wanted internationally after the beginning of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in 2014. For a long time, Interpol refused to place former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych on the wanted list as a suspect in the mass killing of protesters during Euromaidan. Yanukovych was eventually placed on the wanted list on 12 January 2015. However, on 16 July 2015, after an intervention of Joseph Hage Aaronson LLP, the British law firm hired by the former Ukrainian President Yanukovych, the international arrest warrant against the former president of Ukraine was suspended pending further review. In December 2014, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) liquidated a sabotage and reconnaissance group that was led by a former agent of the Ukrainian Bureau of Interpol that also has family relations in the Ukrainian counter-intelligence agencies. This year, Russia has made attempts to place on the Interpol wanted list Ukrainian politician Ihor Kolomoyskyi and Ukrainian civic activist Pavel Ushevets, subject to criminal persecution in Russia following his pro-Ukrainian art performance in Moscow.

According to The Open Dialog Foundation, Russia and other former Soviet republics like Azerbaijan, Belarus and Kazakhstan frequently misuse the Interpol system. The foundation's reports cite 44 politically motivated cases which have passed through the Interpol system. Of these, 18 cases originated in Russia, 10 in Kazakhstan and 5 in Belarus.

The reform of Interpol mechanisms

From 1–3 July 2015, Interpol organised a session of the Working Group on the Processing of Information, which was formed specifically in order to verify the mechanisms of information processing. The Working Group heard the recommendations of civil society as regards the reform of the international investigation system and promised to take them into account.

Human rights organisation The Open Dialog Foundation recommended that Interpol, in particular: creates mechanism for the protection of rights of people having international refugee status; initiates closer cooperation of the Commission for the Control of Files with human rights NGO and experts on asylum and extradition; enforces sanctions for violations of Interpol's rules; strengthens cooperation with NGOs, the UN, OSCE, the PACE and the European Parliament.

Fair Trials International proposed to create effective remedies for individuals who are wanted under a Red Notice on unfair charges; to penalise nations, which frequently abuse the Interpol system; to ensure more transparency of Interpol's work.

The Centre for Peace Studies also created recommendations for Interpol, in particular to delete Red Notices and Diffusions for people who were granted refugee status according to 1951 Refugee Convention issued by their countries of origin, and to establish an independent body to review Red Notices on regular basis.


The current emblem of Interpol was adopted in 1950 and comprises the following elements:

  • the globe indicates worldwide activity
  • the olive branches represent peace
  • the sword represents police action
  • the scales signify justice



UN member states without membership

Partially recognised states without membership


In addition to its General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, Interpol maintains seven regional bureaus:

Interpol's Command and Coordination Centres offer a 24/7 point of contact for national police forces seeking urgent information or facing a crisis. The original is in Lyon with a second in Buenos Aires added in September 2011. A third is scheduled to open in Singapore in September 2014.

Interpol opened a Special Representative Office to the United Nations in New York in 2004 and to the European Union in Brussels in 2009.

The organization has constructed the Interpol Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) in Singapore to act as its research and development facility, and a place of cooperation on digital crimes investigations. It was officially opened in April 2015, but had already become active beforehand. Most notably, a world-wide takedown of the SIMDA botnet infrastructure was co-ordinated and executed from IGCI's Cyber Fusion Centre in the weeks before the opening, as was revealed at the launch event.

Secretaries-general and presidents

Secretaries-general since organization's inception in 1923:

Austria Oskar Dressler1923–1946
France Louis Ducloux1946–1951
France Marcel Sicot1951–1963
France Jean Népote1963–1978
France André Bossard1978–1985
United Kingdom Raymond Kendall1985–2000
United States Ronald Noble2000–2014
Germany Jürgen Stock2014–

Presidents since organization's inception in 1923:

Austria Johann Schober1923–1932
Austria Franz Brandl1932–1934
Austria Eugen Seydel1934–1935
Austria Michael Skubl1935–1938
Nazi Germany Otto Steinhäusl1938–1940
Nazi Germany Reinhard Heydrich1940–1942
Nazi Germany Arthur Nebe1942–1943
Nazi Germany Ernst Kaltenbrunner1943–1945
Belgium Florent Louwage1945–1956
Portugal Agostinho Lourenço1956–1960
United Kingdom Sir Richard Jackson1960–1963
Finland Fjalar Jarva1963–1964
Belgium Firmin Franssen1964–1968
West Germany Paul Dickopf1968–1972
Canada William Leonard Higgitt1972–1976
Sweden Carl Persson1976–1980
Philippines Jolly Bugarin1980–1984
United States John Simpson1984–1988
France Ivan Barbot1988–1992
Canada Norman Inkster1992–1994
Sweden Björn Eriksson1994–1996
Japan Toshinori Kanemoto1996–2000
Spain Jesús Espigares Mira2000–2004
South Africa Jackie Selebi2004–2008
Chile Arturo Herrera Verdugo2008
Singapore Khoo Boon Hui2008–2012
France Mireille Ballestrazzi2012–