An Emirati general accused of overseeing the torture of British citizens could be named as Interpol’s next president on Thursday, raising concerns that the global police agency risks being exploited by repressive governments.
General Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi, head of the United Arab Emirates’ security forces, is standing against one other candidate at the election in Istanbul, Czech Republic police chief Sarka Havrankova.
Interpol has received millions of dollars in funding from the United Arab Emirates [UAE], and is facing claims that its “red notice” arrest warrants are being misused to target government critics.
If Gen Al-Raisi’s bid is successful, it could also renew scrutiny of the Emirati leadership, which has been accused of hacking phones and abducting relatives from overseas.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, was found by a UK High Court ruling in October to have ordered his ex-wife’s phone to be hacked.
The court also found that Sheikh Mohammed had kidnapped and forcibly returned to the UAE two of his daughters, including Sheikha Shamsa who was abducted by Emirati agents from Cambridgeshire.
Several legal complaints alleging torture have been filed against Gen Al-Raisi in France and Turkey, including one by the British academic Matthew Hedges.
Mr Hedges was imprisoned in the UAE for seven months after he was falsely accused of spying, and says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of torture during his detainment.
“Of course it has been unnerving to find out that Al-Raisi is openly running and that states are warm to his mandate,” Mr Hedges said in a statement to the Daily Telegraph.
“My experience is not an outlier and the UAE systematically abuses human rights with Al-Raisi directly complicit in these events as we have shown in our evidence submitted to the Turkish prosecutor.”
Ali Issa Ahmad, also a British citizen, was arrested while on holiday in Dubai for wearing a Qatar football shirt. He alleges that he suffered torture and physical abuse which was overseen by General Raisi.
The mens’ lawyer, Rodney Dixon QC, said at a recent press conference in Istanbul that they hold evidence of the torture and that the UAE has so far ignored requests by UK authorities for an investigation.
“The election of General Al Raisi would undermine the mission and reputation of Interpol and severely affect the ability of the organisation to carry out its mission effectively,” three European Parliament members wrote in a letter dated November 11 to European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen.
In October 2020, 19 NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, expressed concern about the possible choice of Gen Al-Raisi, whom they described as being “part of a security apparatus that continues to systematically target peaceful critics”.
Interpol secretary-general Jurgen Stock has said he is “aware of these accusations, which are currently an issue between the parties involved”.
“It will be on Thursday the role of the member countries of Interpol to decide” on whether Gen Al-Raisi should get the role, Mr Stock added.
A spokesman for the Emirati foreign ministry said: “Over forty years, with the encouragement and support of UAE leadership, Al Raisi has modernized UAE policing with enhanced training, upgraded technology, and the promotion of women. He strongly believes that the abuse or mistreatment of people by police is abhorrent and intolerable.
“Any legal complaint that may be filed with allegations against Al Raisi will be without merit and will be rejected.”