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France opens probe into Emirati Interpol chief over torture allegations

Investigation comes following complaint from rights group over abuse of Emirati political detainee Ahmed Mansoor
Major General Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi at the 89th Interpol General Assembly in Istanbul on 23 November 2021 where he was elected chief of the organisation (AFP)

French prosecutors have opened a preliminary probe into Interpol chief Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi over allegations he was involved in torture and abuse of prisoners while a top official at the UAE interior ministry, judicial sources told AFP.

The complaint against Raisi was brought by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), an NGO which claimed the Emirati inspector general oversaw the torture of jailed dissident Ahmed Mansoor.

GCHR originally lodged its complaint in January with the French anti-terror prosecutors unit, which also handles crimes against humanity.

Raisi was voted in at president of Interpol in November, following intense lobbying and generous funding from the UAE.

Although the Lyon-based organisation has defended his role as largely ceremonial, Raisi's election was highly controversial with numerous rights groups, legal organisations and former torture victims warning his appointment would be damaging for the international policing body.

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Speaking to Middle East Eye in November just prior to the election, Ali Issa Ahmed - a British citizen who was detained in the UAE between 23 January and 12 February 2019 - described Raisi's appointment as "insane".

Ahmed, who last year also filed a civil lawsuit against Raisi and other Emirati officials, suffered severe abuse while in detention including being burned, beaten and electrocuted, which has left him traumatised.

"Until now I've relied on medicine to sleep and forget the things that happened to me... I get traumatic flashbacks," he said.

"If he is elected, Interpol will be corrupt... it's really concerning."

Critics of Interpol have long argued that the organisation's red notice system - whereby member states can issue alerts to others that an individual's arrest is sought - is open to abuse by repressive governments.

The election of Raisi, they warned, would give a further green light to governments who wished to use Interpol to crackdown on dissidents.

"Interpol is a valuable and critical organisation for fighting transnational crime, but due to some deficiencies within its own system, it is also subject to misuse and abuse by autocratic regimes," said Sandra Grossman, a solicitor who has testified in the US Senate about the abuse of Interpol red notices by states as a means of transnational repression, speaking to MEE last year.

"There are numerous examples of countries like Turkey, Russia, China, among others, who utilise the significant power of the red notice to hunt for political opponents outside of their borders."

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