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UAE official not suited to be Interpol chief, says former UK prosecutor

Major General Ahmed Naser al-Raisi has been linked to human rights abuses, including the torture of two British citizens
A coalition of human rights groups warned last year that Raisi’s appointment would 'damage' Interpol’s reputation (AFP)

The United Arab Emirate's security chief is ill-suited to run Interpol, according to a report by the former director of public prosecutions of England and Wales, who said that the Emirati official had overseen torture and abuses.

In the report, which was written with assistance from the UK-based International Human Rights Advisors, David Calvert-Smith said that Ahmed Naser al-Raisi's nomination could be interpreted as a “reward” for donations to the agency.

According to the Guardian, Calvert-Smith said the process of electing a president of the international police agency was “shrouded in secrecy and opaque".

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“Not only would an Emirati president of Interpol serve to validate and endorse the [United Arab Emirates’] record on human rights and criminal justice but, in addition, Maj Gen al-Raisi is unsuitable for the role,” he wrote. 

“He sits at the very top of the Emirati criminal justice system. He has overseen an increased crackdown on dissent, continued torture, and abuses in its criminal justice system.”

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, although he has not formally announced his candidacy. 

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

The British government, which has good political relations with the UAE, has not stated a position regarding Raisi’s appointment.

Raisi, UAE police chief since 2015, has been accused of serious human rights abuses, including "presiding over the torture of two British citizens", according to the Telegraph.

In October last year, a coalition of human rights groups warned that Raisi’s appointment would "damage" Interpol’s reputation and would contrast with its mission and aims.

"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,"  the coalition of rights groups said. 

Presidency for donations

Based in Lyon, France, Interpol is a relatively small information-sharing bureau with only 1,000 staff and a budget of €142m in 2019.

In March 2017, Interpol accepted a €50m donation over five years from the UAE-funded Interpol Foundation for a Safer World, a Geneva-based organisation.

Calvert-Smith said that the donation could give the impression that Interpol’s president “may be seen as a reward for a financial contribution”.

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He also mentioned Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, who was sentenced to 10 years for his human rights advocacy in the UAE, and has been held in solitary confinement and “shocking” conditions since his arrest in 2017, according to Human Rights Watch.

“The public-facing images of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are internationalist and westernised. Nonetheless, it remains the case that there is a wealth of evidence that suggests that there continue to be significant, sustained and systematic breaches of human rights in the UAE,” the report said.

Chris Jones, who is in charge of relations with Interpol at the Home Office, told the Commons foreign affairs select committee in February, according to the Guardian, that it was too early to know who the UK would support for the Interpol elections.

“Obviously the UK will look to support candidates who have a history of observing high standards in a rules-based international system, and we will look at that later in the year once the full field of candidates comes forward,” he said.