Interpol elects UAE official as president despite human rights criticisms

Interpol elected a controversial UAE official as its new president at the international law enforcement agency’s annual general meeting in Istanbul on Thursday.

Major General Ahmed Naser al-Raisi, inspector general of the United Arab Emirates Interior Ministry and a member of Interpol’s executive committee, has been elected for a four-year term, the global police agency said. Human rights groups accuse him of involvement in torture and arbitrary detention in the United Arab Emirates.

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Another controversial candidate, Hu Binchen, an official with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, was elected as a delegate from Asia to Interpol’s executive committee. Hu has been backed by China’s government, which is suspected of using global police to hunt down dissidents in exile and make their citizens disappear.

Interpol said al-Raisi was elected after three ballots and received 68.9 percent of the votes in the last ballot.

“It is an honor to have been elected as the next President of Interpol,” the global police agency quoted al-Raisi as saying.

“Interpol is an indispensable organization based on the strength of their partnerships. This cooperative spirit, united in mission, I will continue to nurture as we work to create a safer world for people and communities, ”he said.

The presidential election has been followed closely since the panel’s first Chinese president, Meng Hongwei, disappeared on a return trip to China in 2018, mid-four-year term. He was later found to be arrested and charged with bribery and other alleged criminal offenses.

Al-Raisi is charged with torture and has charges against him in five countries, including France, where Interpol is headquartered, and Turkey, where the elections were held.

His election was greeted with joy in the United Arab Emirates, but it sparked angry reactions from two Britons who filed the complaints.

“This is a sad day for international justice and global policing,” said Matthew Hedges, a British graduate student who was imprisoned in the UAE for almost seven months in 2018 on charges of espionage. Hedges says he was tortured and held in solitary confinement for months.

Ali Issa Ahmad, a soccer fan who says he was tortured by the UAE security agency during the 2019 Asia Cup soccer tournament, said: “I will continue my fight for justice because of the torture and ill-treatment I have been taking under the supervision of Al -Raisi did not stop. I hope Interpol won’t allow him to abuse other people. “

Her attorney Rodney Dixon said his clients would “redouble their efforts to seek justice for their torture and prosecute General al-Raisi in national courts wherever he travels in his new position.”

Hedges has been pardoned by the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, but Emirati officials still insist that Hedges spied on MI6 for British intelligence without providing definitive evidence to support their claims. He, his family and British diplomats have repeatedly denied the allegations.

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance for China, which regroups lawmakers from around the world, expressed concern about Hu’s election to Interpol’s executive committee, saying it gave China “the green light to continue using Interpol as a vehicle for its repressive policies”. There was no immediate comment from Beijing.

In the United Arab Emirates, which is now hosting the 2020 world exposition in Dubai and celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding, Emirati officials celebrated the selection of al-Raisi. Interior Minister Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan said it shows “the world’s confidence in the United Arab Emirates”.

Praising the UAE leaders, Al-Raisi said, “With their leadership and expertise, the UAE has become one of the safest countries in the world.” He promised to modernize Interpol’s technology, empower women and address new challenges such as climate change and address the coronavirus pandemic.

“I will continue to reaffirm a core tenet of our profession – that abuse or ill-treatment by the police of any kind is hideous and intolerable,” he said in a statement on his website. “The credibility and reputation of Interpol and global law enforcement are our most important assets.”

Campaigned around the world to meet lawmakers and government officials, Al-Raisi had degrees from the UK and US and years of policing experience.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, an activist with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, warned that the election of al-Raisi “marks the beginning of a dangerous era in which authoritarian regimes are now able to dictate the international police force”.

“Nobody is safe from the abuse of Interpol and authoritarian regimes,” Alwadaei said in a statement.

Al-Raisi replaces Kim Jong Yan of South Korea, a vice president who was quickly elected to replace Meng for the remainder of Meng’s term.

Although the General Secretary of Interpol directs Interpol on a daily basis, the President has a role in overseeing the work of the Police Department and in directing its general direction. The President chairs the General Assemblies of Interpol and the meetings of the Executive Committee.

Jürgen Stock from Germany currently holds the post of General Secretary.

Meanwhile, Interpol also said that Valdecy Urquiza from Brazil was elected Vice President for America, while Garba Baba Umar from Nigeria was elected Vice President for Africa.

The three-day meeting was attended by around 470 police chiefs, ministers and other representatives from more than 160 countries. Each participating country has one vote.

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