The Interpol on 26th of October 2022 announced its plans to enter the Metaverse. Metaverse is an unknown territory for tech enthusiasts and users alike and the Governments are no strangers to this ignorance. The fact that metaverse has seen a massive space in establishing an alternative identity combined with the line between the law in a real world shows the misgivings of the rule of law in a lawless land. Believers of Metaverse argue that metaverse is not a land and hence a space for the unknown, unseen, and unexpected. The fact that policing and especially Interpol, has followed the metaverse in the line of most tech giants is an indication that the metaverse world is riddled with issues that we see in a real world. However, this is not similar to the situations that have prompted global actioning, unlike the past.
Case in point is the close correlation that the Interpol has with the Financial Action Task Force, which was established post 9/11 to monitor the financial transactions and the terrorist funding. Both the Interpol and the FATF were mandated to bring to light the criminal elements assisting the terrorism and other international humanitarian crime. Both have their consequential blacklist, grey list and monitored jurisdictions, while the former has the authority to issue a red notice for serious criminals.
It must be recognised that both the FATF and the Interpol have been seen as pivotal organisations in the cooperation between the states and to ensure law enforcement to curb the common enemy. However, both suffer from the same jurisdictional issue and the dependence on the local law enforcement and in turn the local governments. Interpol has issued 7128 Red Notices on persons as on 27th October 2022. The issuance of red notices is far from transparent and riddled with negative diplomatic gains, ranging from absurdity to arbitrary. Going by its own database of the people who are searching for active red notices against a person as of July 2022 is 20 million per day, which translates to 7.3 billion per year. To translate this, it is almost the population of the earth every year.
The natural corollary of a law enforcement agency is the ability to prosecute. The prosecution, which follows an investigation, could either be instituted at the International Criminal Court or at the domestic courts. Firstly, The disconnect between the Interpol and the International Criminal Court (ICC) is the number of countries which are party to both. The former has 195 countries, while the ICC has 123 countries, meaning 72 countries are true havens for escape of criminals unless the national courts are strong to bring them to a stage of prosecution. This includes India, which is part of the Interpol, but not part of the ICC.
Secondly, the disconnect of the judicial presence, makes the Interpol turn into a police without boundaries and without a check. Interpol, has seen its fair share of corruption related issues surrounding the ‘Red Notice’ List as recent as 2020. As such, Interpol suffers from state bias and diplomatic immunities which plague officers of the Interpol with issues of ‘to be or not to be in the red list’. This in turn provides a merry playground for criminals.
Adding on to the list of issues that it suffers, Interpol’s surveillance or the proposed tactic thereof may lack the judicial conscience check. This has been in violation of the international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects individuals from arbitrary and authoritarian actions by the Governments.
The move to expand into the metaverse is a welcome one but without an addressal mechanism to the existing strength of the Interpol, leading to create additional layer of bureaucracy and a wider range of arbitrariness in the ‘red notice’ process. The strength of the Interpol lies in its ability to garner global regime for implementing the rule of law and to ensure information transparency amongst the law enforcement. The Interpol has its work cut out in the law enforcement assistance and the crimes in a world of war. It is a reality that the war in Ukraine has made the Russian oligarchs to reach out to the United Kingdom to launder the sanctioned assets, so much so that London has infamously earned the nickname, ‘London-grad’. The Interpol has a pivotal role to play in enhancing cooperation in the areas of Corruption, Drug Trafficking, Financial Crime and most importantly, Crimes against Children especially during conflict.
The transition toward and the focus on a metaverse is a sublime vision of the Interpol, while ignoring the ground realities and the focus on the crimes in a real world.
About the Authors
Dr. Srikant Parthasarathy & Dr Amirthalakshmi R
The authors are Professors of International Law & Doctor of Law