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ILJ Online is the online component of Fordham International Law Journal.

Turkish Government Seeks to Use INTERPOL Red Notice to Facilitate International Arrest of NBA Star: Can (or Kanter) It?

On January 15, 2019, Turkey issued an extradition request and a request for an INTERPOL Red Notice for Portland Trail Blazers center, Enes Kanter.[1]  Kanter, a Turkish national who has lived in the United States since 2009 and who has played in the NBA since 2011, has not been shy about his criticism of Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.[2]  The basis of these requests from the Turkish government are Kanter’s ties to Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who has been exiled from Turkey since 1999 and blamed for the failed coup against President Erdogan in 2016.[3]  Gulen is Kanter’s spiritual advisor.[4] Erdogan claims that these ties to Gulen are paramount to “membership in a terrorist organization” and are the basis for seeking this notice.[5]  However, the US has not responded to the extradition claim and INTERPOL has yet to issue the requested Red Notice for Kanter’s arrest.[6] The request for INTERPOL involvement in the case of a famous American NBA star raises many questions about the foundation and powers of INTERPOL.

INTERPOL was chartered in 1956 and is bound by all applicable international law.[7]  The organization is specifically charged with promoting the contents of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) through cooperation with international courts and tribunals.[8]  INTERPOL is recognized by the United Nations and there are currently 194 Member States in the organization, including Turkey and the United States.[9]

Since INTERPOL operates under the restrictions of international law, it must respect the concept of state sovereignty and is forbidden from compelling any state actor to arrest an individual or to otherwise act in accordance with an INTERPOL request.[10]  Unlike the portrayal of INTERPOL in popular culture, the organization does not have international agents with the power to make arrests within the sovereign boundaries of states.[11]  Instead, to give legal importance to its requests, the organization relies solely on international cooperation between states, promoted through cooperation agreements in place with several Member States and international organizations.[12]

INTERPOL issues two types of notices: Red Notices, international requests for arrest, and Yellow Notices, which are issued in order to locate missing persons.[13]  To receive an official INTERPOL Red Notice, the requesting Member State must first have a national arrest warrant for the individual and then ask INTERPOL to grant a Red Notice.[14]  The Red Notice must be approved and issued by the General Secretariat.[15] A Red Notice is essentially a notice to the community of member states that a country is interested in pursuing prosecution against a person who would need to be extradited – it is not a warrant and Member States do not have to abide by these requests for arrest.[16]

There are currently 6,849 wanted individuals listed on INTERPOL’s Red Notice database.[17]  Most of these individuals are wanted for violent and/or drug-related crimes.[18]  Only two of the individuals listed on the INTERPOL database are wanted by Turkey. Both are wanted for suspected financial crimes, which Enes Kanter is not.[19]  However, despite not having an active Red Notice, Kanter has avoided international travel and international competition in recent weeks due to threats from the Erdogan regime.[20]

Since Turkey’s initial request in mid-January, there have been no further developments in its pursuit of a Red Notice or its extradition request.[21] Moreover, President Erdogan has not issued any further statements regarding the matter.[22]  The lack of continued effort by Erdogan or any official response from the US highlights the hollow nature of Red Notices as a hook for international arrest. While powerful in theory and in popular culture, INTERPOL and its Red Notices are significantly limited as a tool to overcome state sovereignty.  

As for Kanter, he took to Twitter to issue his official response to the situation and Turkey’s suggestion of terrorist ties: “The only thing I terrorize is the rim!”[23]

 

Savannah Price and Ricky Knapp are staff members of Fordham International Law Journal Volume XLII.

This post is a student blog post and in no way represents the views of the Fordham International Law Journal.

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[1] Turkish Prosecutors Seek Arrest of the Knicks’ Enes Kanter, N.Y. Times (Jan. 16, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/16/sports/basketball/knicks-enes-kanter-turkey-arrest-warrant.html.

[2] Kelly Whiteside, An N.B.A. Star Takes On Erdogan, N.Y. Times (Jan. 9, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/09/sports/kanter-knicks-erdogan-turkey.html?action=click&module=RelatedCoverage&pgtype=Article&region=Footer.

[3] Supra note 1.

[4] Nicole Noren, Trail Blazers’ Kanter, former teammate Turkoglu spar again about Turkey's government, ESPN (Mar. 12, 2019), http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/26197466/portland-trail-blazers-enes-kanter-former-nba-player-hedo-turkoglu-trade-barbs-turkey-e60-interviews.

[5] Id.

[6] Supra note 1. See also, INTERPOL, Search (last visited Feb. 13, 2019), https://www.interpol.int/notice/search/wanted.

[7] INTERPOL, Legal materials (last visited Feb. 13, 2019), https://www.interpol.int/About-INTERPOL/Legal-materials/Human-rights.

[8] Id.

[9] INTERPOL, Member countries (last visited Feb. 13, 2019), https://www.interpol.int/Member-countries/World.

[10] INTERPOL, Notices (last visited Feb. 13, 2019), https://www.interpol.int/INTERPOL-expertise/Notices/Red-Notices.

[11] INTERPOL, Structure and governance (last visited Feb. 13, 2019), https://www.interpol.int/About-INTERPOL/Structure-and-governance.

[12] INTERPOL, Legal materials (last visited Feb. 13, 2019), https://www.interpol.int/About-INTERPOL/Legal-materials/Cooperation-agreements.

[13] INTERPOL, Notices (last visited Mar. 24, 2019), https://www.interpol.int/how-we-work/Notices.

[14] Supra note 10.

[15]  Id.

[16] Id.

[17] INTERPOL, Search (last visited Feb. 13, 2019), https://www.interpol.int/notice/search/wanted.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Supra note 1. See also, Casey Holdahl (@CHold), Twitter (Feb. 27, 2019, 7:55 PM), https://twitter.com/CHold/status/1100967754105012224; Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter), Twitter (Mar. 1, 2019, 4:14 PM), https://twitter.com/Enes_Kanter/status/1101636868645507074.

[21] Supra note 1.

[22] Id.

[23] Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter), Twitter (Jan. 16, 2019, 7:52 AM), https://twitter.com/Enes_Kanter/status/1085565362844897280.