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UAE police chief's bid to head Interpol sparks 'deep concerns' among rights groups

Emirati general Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi would 'damage' international police organisation's reputation, joint letter says
The election of Interpol's next president will be held on 7-8 December in Abu Dhabi
The election of Interpol's next president will be held on 7-8 December in Abu Dhabi (AFP/File photo)

The appointment of the United Arab Emirate's security chief as president of Interpol would "damage" the international police organisation's reputation, and would contrast with its mission and aims, a coalition of human rights groups said on Thursday. 

In a joint letter written to Interpol's secretary-general Jurgen Stock, 19 non-government organisations including Human Rights Watch and MENA Rights Group, raised "deep concerns" about Major-General Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi's bid to head up the organisation, due to the UAE's human rights abuses.

Raisi is in charge of overseeing the UAE's security and police forces as general inspector of the Ministry of Interior. He also sits on the executive committee of Interpol, and is believed to be a frontrunner to become the next president. 

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The election will be held during the organisation's general assembly in Abu Dhabi on 7-8 December. 

"We believe that the appointment of Mr Al Raisi would both undermine the mission and reputation of Interpol and severely impact the ability of the organisation to carry out its mission effectively and in good faith," the coalition of rights groups said. 

"Given the UAE's poor human rights record, including the systematic use of torture and ill treatment in state security facilities, Mr Al Raisi's appointment as president would damage Interpol's reputation and stand in great contradiction to the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the organisation's mission."

Raisi himself has been accused of serious human rights abuses, including "presiding over the torture of two British citizens", according to the Telegraph. 

Matthew Hedges, a Durham University postgraduate student, says he was fed a cocktail of drugs and psychologically tortured during his imprisonment in Dubai on spying charges.

Meanwhile, Ali Ahmad was imprisoned for several weeks last year for wearing a Qatar shirt to a football match. He alleges he was stabbed, beaten and deprived of sleep, food and water for days.

Both British men accused Raisi of being ultimately responsible for their torture, and have urged Interpol not to elect him as president.

'Chilling message to human rights advocates'

The joint letter also drew on wider concerns about the UAE's record on human rights: 

"As a state representative of the UAE, Mr Al Raisi is part of a security apparatus that continues to systematically target peaceful critics, rendering civic space virtually non-existent in the country.

"Lawyers, journalists, political activists and human rights defenders in the UAE have been subjected to harsh reprisals, intimidation tactics, enforced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detention as a result of peacefully expressing their opinions, including on trumped up 'terrorism' charges."

Ines Osman, director and co-founder of MENA Rights Group, told Middle East Eye that Raisi's appointment "would send a chilling message to human rights advocates around the world". 

"The list of things the UAE government would need to do before they can be seen as credible candidates for the presidency of Interpol is long," Osman said. 

"For starters, they would need to put an end to the practice of torture, stop resorting to cyber-surveillance against dissidents, and stop using the fight against terrorism and extremism as a pretext to silence their citizens, and free all prisoners of conscience."

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