The internets erupted last week after INTERPOL issued an easily misunderstood “Red Notice” for “Captain” Paul Watson of the methodically controversial Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
The notice, which is “the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today,” was issued after Watson skipped bail in Germany as he faced extradition to Costa Rica. He faces charges there of ‘causing a danger of drowning or of an air disaster’ in connection to an incident that took place in April 2002 while filming Sharkwater, a documentary film meant to expose the ugly shark-hunting/finning industry.
While not an actual arrest warrant, a Red Notice is a notice sent to member nations of the world’s largest international police force that is meant to “seek the location and arrest of a person wanted by a judicial jurisdiction or an international tribunal with a view to his/her extradition.” In 2011, INTERPOL issued a total of 7,678 Red Notices out of a total 40,836 active notices and 48,310 diffusions (similar to notices but sent directly to countries) that were in circulation at the end of 2011. Additionally, 7,958 people were arrested on the basis of a notice or diffusion during 2011, INTERPOL data shows.
In this quick Q&A, Watson’s defense team sets out to “set the record straight” by addressing what a Red Notice is (and is not), what this means for Watson and the Sea Shepherd, and how this will affect the “Captain’s” future role in the society’s upcoming anti-whaling campaigns.
Q.: What is the impact of Captain Watson forfeiting bail to leave Germany?
A.: Skipping bail in Germany is not a crime! This is totally different from U.S. jurisdiction and from other countries in the world. Article 2 of the German constitution states, that Germany grants personal freedom. Therefore it is not even a crime in Germany to escape from prison. The decision of the client to leave the country leads only to the consequence that the local (not international!) arrest warrant of the Higher Regional Court was set into force, and that bail is seized (forfeited) on decision by the court. Because of the fact that the client was arrested in an extradition procedure, Germany is not actively searching for Mr. Watson locally or internationally.
Q.: What is the extradition procedure in Germany as it pertains to this case?
A.: In the case of Mr. Watson, we knew that besides the request of Costa Rica, there was also a ‘blue’ note issued by Interpol on charges from Japan against the client. This ‘blue’ note on the warrant from Japan has been active since 2010 and has not converted into a ‘red’ notice with Interpol during the whole extradition procedure with Costa Rica. But we learned that Japan was highly interested concerning the procedure with Costa Rica because they sent requests through Interpol Tokyo to the Higher Regional Court to gather more information on the procedure itself. This was absolutely unusual. The German authorities are allowed to extradite even without a special treaty with the requesting country. Therefore it was very likely that Japan would ask for extradition itself on a bilateral basis; after Mr. Watson left the country, we learned that such an extradition request was forwarded by the Japanese Embassy through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the General Public Prosecution Office in Frankfurt. The scenario would have been that Mr. Watson would have been extradited to Costa Rica, and then extradited after the procedure to Japan.
These facts show, that there was a link between the extradition request from Costa Rica and the upcoming extradition request from Japan. Having in mind that the president of Costa Rica visited Japan at the end of 2011, having in mind that Japan granted an enormous amount of money for “environmental protection” in Costa Rica, it is obvious that these two countries have a very close relationship.
Q.: Is the Interpol ‘Red’ Notice a warrant and what is its impact?
A.: Interpol Notices are international alerts allowing police in member countries to share information. Interpol is not actively issuing arrest warrants, Interpol is not actively searching for the defendant, and Interpol is not involved in the extradition procedure. Interpol just exchanges information between the police in the member countries.
The information that Interpol has issued a ‘red’ notice against Mr. Watson on the charges of Costa Rica only means that the police in the member countries shall be aware that Mr. Watson is wanted by Costa Rica. It is up to the police and the judicial authorities within the Interpol member countries whether or not they want to act on this local arrest warrant from Costa Rica.
Q.: What is the impact of the ‘Red Notice’ on Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (S.S.C.S.)?
A.: Because of the fact that these are individual cases and charges against Mr. Watson (in Costa Rica and in Japan) which are as stated probably politically motivated, there is no impact on the work of S.S.C.S. as an NGO itself; it is a general principle that criminal charges are against individuals, not against legal bodies.
Q.: Will Captain Watson be able to travel for the upcoming Antarctic and other campaigns?
A.: “I am convinced that Captain Paul Watson is able to continue his work, even with these bogus charges against him,” Wallasch said.
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