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Interpol joins international task force investigating Dubai assassination

Interpol joined an international task force investigating the Dubai assassination of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. The international policing organization also said it was convinced of the broad, international scope of the crime.

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Dubai Police Chief Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim has urged countries whose travel documents were faked to carry out a full investigation. He has also accused Israel of carrying out the assassination and last week called for the arrest of its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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A ‘thorough’ investigation

Red notices, the highest of six color-coded levels of notices that Interpol circulates worldwide, alert law enforcement agencies worldwide to arrest and extradite the individuals named. Other classes of notification ask countries to gather information about people (blue) or ask them help find missing persons (yellow).

Red notices are issued at the request of member countries, based on national arrest warrants or court orders. But Interpol also screens the requests, looking over the evidence available and making sure it does not violate rules such as Article 3 of its constitution, which forbids intervention for activities of a “political, military, religious, or racial character.” Interpol also reserves the right to refuse any request it “considers unadvisable.”

In a statement about the Mabhouh case, Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said that Dubai police had established “clear” links to the suspects. He referred to evidence – some of it not yet public – drawn from passport records, video surveillance, DNA analysis, interviews by witnesses, and data from hotels, credit cards, phones, and travel, and called the investigation “thorough.”

Police Chief Tamim, who is leading the investigation, has publicized a wealth of information collected so far about the murder, including a half-hour film compiled from CCTV footage.

Most red notices go unanswered

The red notices don’t mean the suspects will be arrested, especially if they are, as Tamim alleged, Mossad agents now back in Israel. Israel has neither admitted nor denied involvement in the murder.

The notices do not qualify as international arrest warrants, and nations can choose to act on the alerts or to ignore them. Many fugitives named by Interpol live happily and free from worry of arrest.

In 2008, 3,100 people had red notices issued against them, and 700 were detained (some of them may have been wanted from years prior). In 2009, the number of red notices rose to 5,020, or about 14 a day.

Despite their low rate of return, the red notices still provide value for Dubai. The authorities here are sending the message that they are doing all they can, says Mr. Kahwaji, the analyst. If nothing happens “it would make the international community look bad,” he says. They are saying, “if you can’t do your job, then don’t blame Dubai.”

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